Norwegian fighter jets reportedly have bombed at least 130 targets in Libya since the UN-backed military intervention began last month, meaning that Norwegian pilots are among those carrying out the most bombing raids over Libya. Norwegian officials, meanwhile, have held talks with representatives of the Libyan opposition fighting the country’s longtime leader Moammar Gadhafi.
Newspaper Aftenposten reported Wednesday that Norwegian pilots of the country’s F16 fighter jets have fired at least 12 percent of NATO’s bombs against Gadhafi’s forces. Around 130 laser-guided bombs of 250, 1000 and 2000 kilos have been dropped against military goals since the first rounds of bombing in late March.
“Norway is contributing in a class of its own, in relation to its size, along with Denmark,” Ståle Ulriksen of Norwegian foreign policy institute NUPI in Oslo. “Norway makes up an eighth of the entire operative force.”
The Norwegian forces are so effective and in such demand, according to Aftenposten, that they’re carrying out assignments 20 hours a day. “The Norwegian and Danish jets are being put forward as the best in the class,” said Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Støre.
The Aftenposten report came just before news broke Wednesday that NATO jets had started bombing Libyan media outlets under the control of Moammar Gadhafi. No targets of the Norwegian jets have been identified, to protect the pilots, so it was unclear whether Norwegian pilots might be involved in the media attacks reported by Reuters.
Norway is being called upon not least because its fighter jets can be used against all military targets singled out by NATO commanders, as long as civilian life is shielded. Most of the other NATO allies participating in the military intervention have stricter limits on use of their aircraft. Jets from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, for example, fly at high elevations to monitor the air space, even though Gadhafi’s own fighter jets are believed to have been destroyed.
State Secretary Espen Barth Eide of Norway’s Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, confirmed earlier this week that representatives of Gadhafi’s opposition in Libya have been in Norway for political talks. “It’s completely natural that we get to know them,” Eide told news bureau NTB and Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
Eide said the meeting was arranged so that opposition spokesman Guma al-Gamaty, who is based in London, could share the opposition forces’ perspective.
The governments of France, Italy and Qatar have recognized the opposition’s national council as Libya’s legitimate government now. Eide noted, however, that the conversations with al-Gamaty didn’t mean Norway will formally do the same.