NATO may get bogged down in Libya: France

PARIS (Reuters) – French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Wednesday NATO could get bogged down in Libya because leader Muammar Gaddafi had made it more difficult for the military alliance to avoid civilian deaths.

NATO has been accused by Libyan rebels of being too slow to launch air strikes against Gaddafi’s troops and military hardware to protect civilians, but the alliance has been forced to change bombing tactics because of human shields.

“We’ve formally requested that there be no collateral damage for the civilian population,” Juppe said in an interview on France Info radio. “That obviously makes operations more difficult.”

He said he would discuss the issue in a few hours with the head of NATO, adding: “The situation is unclear. There is a risk of getting bogged down.”

“The situation in Misrata cannot go on,” Juppe added. Gaddafi’s forces have been shelling Misrata, the only city in western Libya holding out against him, for weeks.

The head of France’s armed forces expressed frustration over the pace of the NATO operation to protect Libyan civilians.

“I would like things to go faster, but as you are well aware, protecting civilians means not firing anywhere near them,” Admiral Edouard Guillaud said in an interview on Europe 1 radio. “That is precisely the difficulty.”

He said NATO forces were concentrating their firepower on Misrata, while trying to stop any transportation of weapons toward Tripoli, still firmly in the hands of Gaddafi’s camp.

Warplanes from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates were taking part in these missions, Guillaud added.

(Reporting by Brian Love and Nick Vinocur; editing by Elizabeth Piper)

NATO may get bogged down in Libya: France