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Libya mission could end 'at any time': NATO chief

(Xinhua)

10:59, September 22, 2011

BRUSSELS, Sept. 21 (Xinhua) -- The head of NATO said on Wednesday that the alliance decided to extend the mandate of its Libya mission for another 90 days, but the operation could end "at any time."

"The North Atlantic Council has decided today to extend the current mandate of Operation Unified Protector, while keeping the situation under regular review," Anders Fogh Rasmussen said in a statement.

Admitting the prolonged threats to civilians, Rasmussen promised "to continue to protect them."

"We are determined to continue our mission for as long as necessary, but ready to terminate the operation as soon as possible. While the technical rollover is for up to 90 days, the review will allow us to end our tasks at any time," Rasmussen added.

The NATO chief said the decision sent a clear message that NATO would be in Libya "for as long as necessary, but not a day longer" and the Libya people should "ensure a safe transition."

In late March, NATO took over the Western operations in Libya with a 90-day military plan, enforcing arms embargo, no-fly zone and carrying out airstrikes to protect civilians. On June 1, the military alliance decided to extend the Libya mission for another 90 days to Sept. 27.

NATO statistics show that its aircrafts have conducted a total of 23,350 sorties, including 8,751 strikes.

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