Hague urges NATO to take over Libya operation

LONDON Thu Mar 24, 2011 1:37pm GMT

French Rafale fighter jets prepare to land at the military air base of Solenzara, on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, where France is using to run its military operation against Libya, March 23, 2011. REUTERS/Jean-Paul Pelissier

French Rafale fighter jets prepare to land at the military air base of Solenzara, on the Mediterranean island of Corsica, where France is using to run its military operation against Libya, March 23, 2011.

Credit: Reuters/Jean-Paul Pelissier

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LONDON (Reuters) - Foreign Secretary William Hague called Thursday for NATO to take over control of Libyan operations as soon as possible, and condemned the continued "appalling violence" by its rulers against civilians.

NATO envoys were set to resume talks later Thursday to try to overcome differences -- mainly with Turkey -- on taking over command of military operations against Muammar Gaddafi's forces in Libya from the United States.

Britain, along with other coalition members, has carried out air strikes to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya since Saturday.

"The case for this action remains utterly compelling, appalling violence against Libyan citizens continues to take place exposing the regime's claims to have ordered a cease-fire to be an utter sham," Hague told parliament.

"These coalition operations are currently under United States command, but we want them to transition to NATO command and control as quickly as possible."

The foreign secretary, who will host an international meeting on Libya next week, said he planned talks with U.S., French and Turkish counterparts later Thursday to try to sort out differences over how the mission is run.

Hague said Britain was concerned about the plight of to 80,000 Libyans who have been forced from their homes.

"The secretary of state for international development is in close communication with his counterparts in international organizations about immediate and longer-term humanitarian support to the Libyan people," he said.

Hague said he had stepped up contacts with the opposition Interim National Council based in the rebel-held eastern city of Benghazi.

"I spoke to Mahmoud Jebril, special envoy of council, on Tuesday to discuss the situation on the ground and to invite him to visit London," he said.

(Writing by Avril Ormsby and Keith Weir)