Sunday, March 20, 2011

US commander Mike Mullen warns of Libya stalemate

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, has said the military operation in Libya called for by the UN Security Council is not aimed at regime change - adding that a "stalemate" could well exist, leaving Muammar Gaddafi in power.

The 64-year-old admiral also said that no-fly zone had "effectively been established", as Gaddafi's planes had not taken to the skies following Saturday's overnight shelling of dozens of targets in northern Libya.

"In the first 24 hours, operations have established the no-fly zone. French air planes are over Benghazi as we speak and will do that on a 24/7 basis. The operations have taken out some ground forces near Benghazi, taken out air defences, some of his control nodes, some of his airfields, I don’t have all damage assessments, but so far [it's been] very very effective," he said.

Gaddafi "was attacking Benghazi and we are there to stop that ... we are ending his ability to attack us from the ground, so he will not continue to execute his own people."

Mullen, the most senior officer in the US military, denied that any civilians had been killed in the bombardment, which saw some 110 cruise missiles being shot from American naval vessels in the Mediterranean sea.

Libyan state TV has reported that death toll from the air strikes has risen to more than 60.

It's understood that 20 of 22 Libyan targets were hit in the overnight assault, "with varying levels of damage", a military source told Reuters. (read more)