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NATO is expanding surveillance in the Mediterranean

Published on , , Sofia

"Time is of the essence", NATO's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said after the meeting of the defence ministers of the Alliance in Brussels on Thursday (March 10). Precisely for this reason NATO has decided to expand its surveillance to 24/7 in the central Mediterranean, by increasing the presence of maritime assets. Mr Rasmussen refused to elaborate on the type of these "assets" and said he was reluctant to reveal any details on the operation. He specified, though, that the purpose of the expansion was to improve NATO's awareness about the situation in the region, which would contribute to better planning.

Besides, enhanced surveillance would help monitor the arms embargo, imposed over Libya by resolution 1970 of the UN Security Council. Anders Fogh Rasmussen also said that the defence ministers of the pact had agreed on initial options for imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, but he underlined that this would happen only after a clear UN Security Council mandate. Moreover, the pact's Secretary General repeated several times that any actions of the organisation would be based upon a clear legal mandate and on strong regional support.

The three principles on which NATO will base its actions are: demonstrable need of pact's interference; clear legal basis (a UN Security Council resolution); strong regional support. For the purpose the Alliance is in constant contact with the African Union, the Arab League and the European Union. "Any NATO activities should be coherent and complementary to other international organisations, especially the European Union", Anders Fogh Rasmussen added.

The Secretary General refused to comment on earlier reports that France had proposed "targeted air strikes" in Libya by defining them as "rumours". He did not commit with an answer to the question of a possible support for the National Council of Libya, of which there were also calls to be recognised as a legitimate power in the country. Instead, the Secretary General stated that there was a risk of division of the country, which could lead to turning it into a failed nation that might prove a good breeding ground for terrorists.

Apparently the issues related to the no-fly zone and the support of the Libyan National Council will be dominant at the starting in a little while (March 11) European Council dedicated to the situation in Libya. According to international news agencies French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced that he had recognised the legitimacy of the National Council in Libya and, in a resolution, the European Parliament called on EU leaders to do the same.

After the informal meeting of EU foreign ministers in Brussels, on the eve of the Council though, Foreign Minister Nickolay Mladenov said, quoted by the Bulgarian National Radio, that the issue of recognition of the National Council was not on the current agenda of Bulgaria. "We recognise states not movements", Mladenov said before the radio. According to him, EU's common position was for more clarity on the situation on the ground and the various groups that emerge on Libya's political stage.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs' spokesperson, Vessela Tcherneva, told euinside that Bulgaria would defend this position at the European Council too, as well as the opinion that any military actions must be undertaken after a clear mandate from the Security Council of the United Nations. "Any EU actions in Libya must be based on international law", is the official Bulgarian position.

The ministers have also adopted tightening of sanctions against Gaddafi's regime to include five key financial institutions and a person in the list for assets freezing already been approved by the EU.

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