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NATO Vows to Continue Libya Campaign

VOA News October 06, 2011

French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet says the NATO campaign in Libya will continue as long as there are pockets of resistance, and until the provisional government asks for the airstrikes to end.

He spoke Thursday in Brussels, where NATO defense ministers have been evaluating the Libya mission as part of a two-day meeting.

Longuet said capturing former leader Moammar Gadhafi's hometown of Sirte would be extremely symbolic, but areas of resistance still remain in Bani Walid and areas of the south.

Libyan military officials said Wednesday that revolutionary forces could capture Sirte within days. National Transitional Council leaders have vowed to step down after the city is secured and the country's liberation is declared.

A Defense Ministry spokesman, Colonel Ahmed Bani, said Wednesday that provisional government fighters have surrounded the strategic coastal city. A local commander said his forces have gained control of half the town. But another NTC official said an all-out assault on Sirte has been delayed to allow residents to flee.

Gadhafi loyalists inside the city have mounted fierce resistance during three weeks of intense fighting. The battle has come at a high cost for civilians, many of whom have been trapped by the clashes with dwindling supplies of food and water and no proper medical supplies to treat the wounded.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Wednesday the decision to end the six-month campaign in Libya will hinge on the ability of NTC forces to maintain order, and not the fate of Gadhafi, whose whereabouts are unknown.

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told the NATO meeting the Libya campaign has exposed "gaps" in the alliance's capabilities. Panetta said the issues include a shortage of drones, refueling tanks and intelligence specialists.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

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