NATO says it is extending its military mission in Libya for 90 days, as Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi refuses to step down despite a popular uprising
NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen made the announcement Wednesday. He said the move is meant to send a clear message to the Gadhafi regime that the pressure to oust him will continue.
The current mission, comprised of air strikes and enforcement of a no-fly zone, would have ended in late June. The extension will continue NATO operations until September.
Meanwhile, the U.S. State Department said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will travel to the United Arab Emirates next week for a meeting on the Libyan conflict. Earlier this month, the 22-nation Libyan Contact Group agreed to set up a fund to help Libyan rebels provide food, medicine and military supplies in the areas under their control.
South African President Jacob Zuma met with Gadhafi Monday in his capacity as head of the African Union. He emerged from the meeting saying Gadhafi is not ready to leave. Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim denied reports that Zuma discussed an exit strategy with the Libyan leader.
The spokesman also said NATO airstrikes in Libya since March have killed 718 civilians and wounded more than 4,000. The casualty figures have not been independently verified. NATO says it has been striking Libyan military and command targets to protect Libyan civilians from assault by Gadhafi’s forces.