* NATO leader says has "indications" nations will deliver
* Canada won't decide on fighters until after May 2 election
* Clinton says countries looking for ways to fund rebels
* Russia concerned some actions go beyond U.N. mandate
(Adds Clinton comments)
By Erik Kirschbaum and David Brunnstrom
BERLIN, April 15 NATO Secretary-General Anders
Fogh Rasmussen and Britain voiced optimism on Friday that NATO
allies would supply more combat planes for the Libyan mission,
but Italy ruled out ordering its planes to open fire.
Britain and France are urging other NATO allies to provide
more planes capable of hitting Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's
ground forces after Washington cut back its role in the
operation and passed command onto NATO on March 31.
"We have got indications that nations will deliver what is
needed ... I'm hopeful that we will get the necessary assets in
the very near future," Rasmussen told a news conference at a
meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin.
The leaders of France, Britain and the United States
published a jointly-written newspaper article on Friday vowing
to keep up their military campaign until Gaddafi leaves power.
Some countries, such as Russia, say that goes beyond the terms
of a U.N. Security Council resolution authorising the campaign.
Libyan rebels have pleaded for more air strikes, saying they
face a massacre from government artillery barrages in the
besieged city of Misrata.
The United States and European NATO allies have so far
rebuffed French and British calls to contribute more actively.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague, who has been
lobbying other NATO allies to provide more strike aircraft, also
said after talks with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
that he was hopeful more strike assets would be made available.
Asked if Britain might be prepared to contribute more combat
aircraft if other allies did not step forward, Hague said:
"We'll always keep that under review but ... as of today this
question doesn't arise."
HELPING THE REBELS
Clinton said NATO allies were searching for ways to provide
funds to Libya's rebels and looking into how the rebels could
sell oil from territory under their control.
"The opposition needs a lot of assistance, on the
organisational side, on the humanitarian side, and on the
military side," Clinton told reporters in Berlin.
"There have been a number of discussions about how to best
provide that assistance ... who's willing to do what. We're also
searching for ways to provide funding to the opposition.
"In addition to looking at how we can free up assets that
could be used by the opposition, we're also looking at how the
opposition could sell oil from sites that are under their
control," she said.
Libyan rebels say they have been able to export only a small
amount of crude oil with the help of OPEC member Qatar but that
they need international help to continue overseas shipments.
French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said France and
Britain wanted to extend air strikes to logistics and decision
centres of Gaddafi's army.
Italy, seen as a key candidate to increase NATO firepower
but which is also the former colonial power in Libya, ruled out
ordering its aircraft to open fire.
Rome has made air bases available for NATO forces and has
contributed eight aircraft to the mission but only for
reconnaissance and monitoring.
"The current line being followed by Italy is the right one
and we are not thinking about changing our contribution to the
military operations in Libya," Italian Defence Minister Ignazio
La Russa told reporters in Rome.
Russia used the meeting with NATO in Berlin to spell out its
concerns that Western governments had overstepped the mandate of
a United Nations resolution authorising a Libya no-fly zone.
"Today we see actions that in many cases go beyond the
framework set by the Security Council ... We talked openly about
it today with our (NATO) partners," Russian Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov told a news briefing.
"We think it is extremely important not to support the moves
in favour of using an excessive military force in order to
resolve problems in Libya or any other country in the region."
Russia abstained but did not veto the U.N. Security Council
resolution last month authorising force to protect civilians.
NATO officials say the alliance is short of about 10
aircraft for air strikes. A French official named Italy, Spain,
the Netherlands and Sweden as countries that could do more.
On Thursday, Spain said it had no plan to join the seven of
the 28 NATO states that have been involved in ground strikes.
Canada will not decide whether to contribute more fighter
jets to NATO operations over Libya until after a May 2 federal
election, Prime Minister Stephen Harper said on Friday.
Canada has six fighter jets in the region and Harper said he
wanted legislators to have a say over any further deployment.
The Canadian parliament does not sit during an election.