NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Monday any ceasefire in Libya must be credible and verifiable, after an African Union delegation said Tripoli had accepted a peace plan.
“Any ceasefire must be credible and verifiable,” Rasmussen told a press conference, noting that the UN Security Council resolution authorizing military action in Libya calls for a “complete end to violence” against civilians.
He said three conditions must be met for a ceasefire to be acceptable.
“First it must be credible, including an effective protection of the civilian population. Second, it must be supervised and controlled effectively,” he said.
“Finally, it must facilitate a political process aiming to implement the necessary political reforms to satisfy the legitimate demands of the Libyan population.”
Rasmussen said NATO has not received any request from the African Union to stop its air strikes against Moammar Qaddafi forces threatening the population.
The delegation of African heads of state met Libyan rebel leaders in their stronghold of Benghazi on Monday to try to sell a peace plan already accepted by Qaddafi’s regime.
But the rebels were demanding that any ceasefire should require the withdrawal of government troops from the streets and freedom of expression.
Asked whether NATO would reduce aerial mission to give space to the AU initiative, Rasmussen made clear that the air strikes would continue as long as the civilian population is in danger.
“We appreciate all efforts to find a political solution to the problems in Libya, including the African Union initiative,” he said.
“But secondly I would also like to stress that the guiding principle for us will be how to implement the UN Security Council resolution fully, that is to protect the civilians against any attack,” Rasmussen said said.
“Our operational tempo will be determined by this clear goal to protect civilians against any attack,” he said.
Rasmussen accused pro-Qaddafi forces of “besieging their own citizens and shelling city centers,” as well as hiding tanks near schools and mosques to prevent NATO from bombing them.
“This is utterly irresponsible,” he said.
The 28-nation alliance intensified its bombing campaign over the weekend.
Rasmussen said NATO aircraft flew almost 300 sorties since Saturday, destroying 49 tanks, nine armored personnel carriers, three anti-aircraft guns and four large ammunition bunkers.
The NATO chief reiterated however that “there can be no solely military solution to the crisis in Libya,” saying that a political resolution was needed.
Rasmussen will attend the second meeting of the international “contact group” in Qatar on Wednesday. The group was created to give political guidance to the campaign in Libya.
He said the group was meeting to provide an international framework for a “lasting settlement” in Libya.
The conflict in Libya will also be at the center of a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Berlin on Thursday and Friday. Agencies