Nations Split over Who Will Command Mission after US Steps Back

Article excerpt

Byline: Nicholas Cecil Chief Political Correspondent

BRITAIN, France, America and other coalition countries were struggling today to sort out who would take command of the mission once the US steps back from the lead.

Military sources in London believe a Nato command structure will be put in place over the coming days.

Italy has warned it will take back national control of its bases -- including Gioia del Colle, where British Tornados and Typhoons are based -- if Nato is not put in charge. But France fears this could lead some Arab countries to withdraw support.

Norway is refusing to commit forces to action until the row over who is running operations is resolved.

Lord Ashdown, a former high representative in the Balkans, warned the West must ensure Arab countries stay with the alliance, as disquiet over the military action grows. "Keeping the Arabs on board and widening it to include nations like Turkey is essential to any success," he said. He proposed a "Nato plus" structure, using its technical expertise but with a wider political input to include countries not in the alliance. Today Qatari planes were flying towards Libya -- touching down in Cyprus -- in the first sign of an Arab nation joining the mission. …

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