Friday, August 19, 2011

Denmark extends Libya mission

Written by defenceWeb Monday, 15 August 2011


Denmark will take part in NATO operations against Libya for another three months, and will allow the rebel National Transitional Council to send envoys to Copenhagen.

On Thursday the country announced its six F-16s would continue to participate in Operation Unified Protector after the current mandate expires later this month. Four of the F-16s actually take part in combat missions while the remaining two are on standby.

"There is a broad agreement that the strategy we have chosen is the right one," Danish Foreign Minister Lene Espersen told AFP.

"The pressure must remain on Gaddafi, so we will maintain our strategy, but adjust it so that it fits the developments of the past couple of months," she said.

"We agree that Denmark must be patient and steadfast. We will continue both the military pressure on Gaddafi and our political efforts to find a political solution to the problems in Libya," she said.

On August 9, Denmark declared the two remaining Libyan diplomats, appointed by the Gaddafi regime, as being persona non grata (unwelcome people) and ordered them to leave the country. Denmark subsequently identified envoys from the rebel National Transitional Council as legitimate representatives of Libya.

"We have chosen to say that we are positively inclined to letting the National Transitional Council have a political representative in Denmark in order to have a partner for political dialogue so we are also able to ensure they move along the road of democracy," Espersen said.

Only one party, the leftist Unity List-the Red-Green Alliance, opposed extending the mandate. "We have broad consensus among most political parties in parliament about this military mission, so I do not see any changes in the Danish policy towards Libya," Mogens Lykketoft, the foreign policy spokesman of the main opposition Social Democrats, told AFP.

Denmark was one of the first countries to offer air assets for the international air campaign to protect Libyan civilians from Gaddafi’s forces.

Its fighter jets have been participating in the mission since March 20 and are stationed at the Signonella base of the Italian island of Sicily.

Meanwhile, neighbouring Norway became the first country to set an end date to Libya operations and withdrew its remaining four F-16s at the beginning of this month.

Originally, Norway had six F-16s engaged in operations over Libya but withdrew two on June 24 as part of an agreement to bring back all F-16s on the first of August.

On June 10, the centre-left government announced it would slowly withdraw its F-16s based at Souda Bay on the Greek island of Crete, saying that Norway’s small air force could not sustain a large contribution for a long period of time.

The UK recently sent another four Tornados to the region, filling the gap created by the F-16s’ departure. NATO has around 250 aircraft under the command of Unified Protector.

Out of NATO’s 28 member states, only eight have flown combat missions over Libya since it took over command from the United States on March 31. These include the UK, France, Canada, Belgium, Denmark, Italy and the United States.


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