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NATO: Qaddafi cannot wait us out

BRUSSELS - NATO said Tuesday that bombing in Libya will continue as long as needed despite growing reluctance among some countries to participate, and Muammar Qaddafi cannot "wait us out."

"As long as his forces continue to attack or threaten civilians, and as long as they continue to try and cut off humanitarian aid, our operations will continue in Libya," spokeswoman Carmen Romero said.

When NATO took command of operations, it expected that would quickly persuade Qaddafi to yield power. But the bombing campaign -- now in its fifth month -- has yet to dislodge the regime.

Eight NATO members have been participating in air strikes in Libya: the U.S., Britain, France, Belgium, Canada, Norway, Denmark and Italy. They have carried out a total of more than 6,200 strike sorties.

But this coalition has been gradually fraying.

The United States was the first to limit its participation, deciding to only provide support to the European allies. Then Italy withdrew its only aircraft carrier and part of its air force contingent. Meanwhile, Norway has announced it will pull all of its F-16 warplanes out of the operation by Aug. 1.

Still, NATO has said Qaddafi should not count on any change in the tempo of operations.

"(NATO) nations are absolutely determined to continue that mission," Romero said. "Qaddafi cannot wait us out."

NATO has repeatedly emphasized that there must be a political solution to the crisis, and that it is up to the Libyan people to decide on the nation's future.

But Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen has also made it clear the alliance considers it impossible to have a transition to democracy while Qaddafi remains in power.

Col. Roland Lavoie of NATO's operational command in Naples, Italy, said the alliance would continue to have the resources needed to maintain the current average of between 100 and 140 sorties a day.

Lavoie said pro-Qaddafi forces were increasingly occupying facilities that once held a civilian purpose. These included stables, farm buildings, commercial and industrial warehouses, factories, and food processing plants.

"By occupying and misusing these facilities, the regime has transformed them into military installations, from which it commands and conducts attacks ... rendering them valid and necessary military objectives for NATO," Lavoie said.

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