Thursday, March 24, 2011

NATO Reaches Deal to Take Command in Libya Effort

TRIPOLI, Libya — NATO reached agreement Thursday to take over full command of the military campaign in Libya as allied warplanes delivered a ferocious round of airstrikes on Libyan ground forces, tanks and artillery that seems to have begun to shift momentum from the forces loyal to Colonel Muammar el-Qaddafi to the rebels opposing him.

The deal within NATO was reached after a four-way telephone call between Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and the foreign ministers of Turkey, France and Britain, which apparently allayed Turkish concerns that the allies were exceeding their authority in their sustained attacks on Colonel Qaddafi’s froces.

Earlier on Thursday a French Rafale fighter jet fired on a Libyan warplane that had been detected by reconaissance aircraft flying above the embattled city of Misurata, the French Defense Ministry said in a statement. The plane was hit by a missile shortly after landing at a nearby military airbase, the Defense Ministry said.

In Misurata, rebels say they are feeling reinvigorated by a second night of American and European air strikes against the Qaddafi forces that have besieged them. The rebels say they continue to battle a handful of Qaddafi gunmen in the city but that the armored units and artillery surrounding the city appeared to have pulled back, their supply and communication lines cut off by the air strikes.
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