ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN (Secretary General of NATO): Good evening. We have met today with our operational partners to assess the situation in Libya. We agreed that our operations are very close to completion, and we have taken a preliminary decision to end Operation Unified Protector on the 31st of October.
We will take a formal decision early next week. In the meantime, I will consult closely with the United Nations and the National Transitional Council.
We agreed that NATO will wind down the operation, during which period – and that means until the 31st of October – during which period NATO will monitor the situation and retain the capacity to respond to threats to civilians if needed.
I am very proud of what we have achieved together with our partners, including many from the region. Our military forces prevented a massacre and saved countless lives. We created the conditions for the people of Libya to determine their own future. Their courage and determination in the cause of freedom is an inspiration to the world.
NATO launched Operation Unified Protector on the basis of an historic mandate from the United Nations to protect the people of Libya against attacks and to enforce the no-fly zone and the arms embargo. Together with our partners, we have carried out that mandate with remarkable success.
We mounted a complex operation with unprecedented speed, and conducted it with the greatest of care. We worked closely with a wide range of international and regional partners. We were fast, flexible, effective, and precise.
We did what we said we would do, and now is the time for the Libyan people to take their destiny fully into their own hands, to build a new, inclusive Libya based on democracy and reconciliation, human rights, and the rule of law.
Let me say once again how proud I am of what we have achieved together. This is a special moment in history, not only for the people of Libya and the wider region, but also for the NATO Alliance. It shows that freedom is the strongest force in the world.
Now I’m happy to take a few questions.
OANA LUNGESCU: And we’ll start with Europa Press.
UNIDENTIFIED (Europa Press): Thank you, Secretary General. I would like to ask if you don’t have a bit of a bad taste in the mouth, seeing how the operation has ended with Qadhafi. Because I know that he was never an objective of the mission; that’s very clear. And we now know that the attack that the NATO participated in, that halted the convoy, didn’t actually kill Qadhafi.
Would you have preferred him to have been taken to The Hague? I don't know if you have, because yesterday as well, in your statement, you made it very clear to the CNT that they had to show restraint now with how they deal with the rest of the Qadhafi – pro-Qadhafi forces. Thank you.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: Let me stress once again, and I’ve done that on several occasions, neither Colonel Qadhafi nor any other individual have been targets of our operations.
We have conducted our operations with the aim to protect civilians against attacks. And as part of that, we have also targeted armed convoys that might constitute a threat to civilians. Such convoys were legitimate military targets.
As regards Colonel Qadhafi and his death, I would expect the new authorities in Libya to live up fully to the basic principles of the rule of law, respect for human rights, including full transparency.
OANA LUNGESCU: Egyptian TV.
MAC DUSA (ph) (Nile News, Egyptian TV): Thank you very much. I’m Mac Dusa (ph) from Nile News, Egyptian Television.
Secretary General, starting from the first of November, once the operation is over, are you keeping some army pieces close to the Libya? I’m talking here about ships or something like this belonging to NATO.
And my second question, since the beginning of the operation till the day, today, we didn’t see any resistant… resistance from Qadhafi troops. Does it mean that the technology of NATO was very strong, or the Libyan didn’t have any missiles or any resistant to… to have… I mean, to shoot some of that (inaudible) of NATO? Was the regime of Qadhafi empty of any weapon to have any resistant?
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: First of all, let me stress that it’s our intention to wind down the operation during a period, and during that period we will closely monitor the situation in Libya, and of course also take action if necessary, because we take full implementation of the United Nations’ mandate to protect civilians very seriously.
So we will of course make sure that there are no attacks against civilians during that transitional period.
As regards the first part of your question, no, we have no intention to keep armed forces in… in the neighbourhood of Libya. It’s our intention to close the operation. It will be a clear-cut termination of our operation.
OANA LUNGESCU: Kuwaiti News Agency.
UNIDENTIFIED (Kuwaiti News Agency): Mr. Secretary General, you had the press conference, a delay of about four hours. Was there a differences among the member states on the time of withdrawal? Thank you.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: No. As… as you know, we take all decisions by consensus. So per definition, the message I have delivered today is based on a unanimous decision in the Council.
But this is serious business. It was serious business to take on the responsibility of this operation in Libya. It is also serious business to take the decision to terminate such an operation because we take full implementation of the United Nations’ mandate very seriously.
So of course we have discussed many aspects of this. But this is a decision taken by consensus in the Council and with support of our operational partners.
OANA LUNGESCU: One last question, NPR.
TERI SHULTZ (National Public Radio and Global Post): Teri Shultz with the National Public Radio and Global Post.
Sir, when you say that you expect the NTC to follow the rule of law, does that mean that you would… would join calls for an investigation into the death of… of Colonel Qadhafi? Do you have concerns that the Geneva Convention on Treatment of Prisoners may have been violated here, since we did see pictures of him alive and then… and then killed?
And also, I realize once again that you… you… NATO doesn’t target individuals, but do you have any information on the whereabouts of Seif al-Islam? Thank you.
ANDERS FOGH RASMUSSEN: No, we have no knowledge of his whereabouts. And I think it’s very important to stress that now it is the responsibility of the Libyan authorities to deal with the internal Libyan affairs.
We have conducted our operation with the aim to protect civilians against attacks, according to United Nations’ mandate. We have conducted these operations from air and at sea. We have no troops… NATO troops on… on the ground. So it is for the Libyan authorities to deal with such issues.
The National Transitional Council has called for freedom and democracy, and this is the reason why I take it for granted that the new authorities in Libya will live up to their international responsibility, will live up to the basic principles of democracy, including the respect for the rule of law and… and human rights.
And then it’s for the Libyan authorities to decide whether a special investigation is needed or not. But I would expect them to live up to the spirit the National Transitional Council itself has called for, namely democracy and transparency.
OANA LUNGESCU: Thank you very much.