Nato to back no-fly zone

NATO states yesterday agreed to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya but stopped short of taking control of military air strikes as discussion raged over who would lead the operation.

Battles between anti-regime rebels and dictator Gaddafi’s forces in Benghazi, Misrata and Ajdabiyah continued yesterday, but Nato secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance’s mandate did not extend beyond enforcing an arms embargo and the no-fly zone, though it could act in self-defence.

Reported civilian casualties from the air strikes have inflamed tensions between western states and leaders are keen to formulate an exit strategy.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy said the Libyan people’s future was “not our problem”.

“The future of Libya, the political choices of Libya, including what they decide to do with Muammar Gaddafi and his henchmen is the problem of the Libyans,” he said.

Air strikes hit Gaddafi’s tanks and brought down a Libyan fighter jet that breached the no-fly zone but failed to stop shelling of Misrata, raising fears of a humanitarian crisis.

Further reports suggested Gaddafi’s sons and allies were reaching out to western governments seeking ways to end the fighting peacefully yesterday.