Ministers disagree on NATO’s role

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Two of Norway’s leading government ministers don’t agree on whether NATO should lead the international coalition that’s attacking Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s regime on behalf of the United Nations. Norway’s participation was on hold under the leadership issue was resolved.

Education Minister Kristin Halvorsen of the Socialist Left party, one of the Norwegian government's three leaders, has never been a big fan of NATO. PHOTO: Sosialistisk venstreparti (SV)

Education Minister Kristin Halvorsen, one of the Norwegian coalition government’s three leaders because she heads one of the parties making up the coalition, and Defense Minister Grete Faremo appeared to be at odds over NATO. Halvorsen’s party, the Socialist Left (SV), has always opposed Norway’s membership in NATO and now she doesn’t want NATO taking the lead in the military action against Libya’s government.

Wants a ‘broad’ coalition
Halvorsen’s party supported the UN resolution and backs the military strikes on Libya. She told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Wednesday, however, that it was important to SV that the UN-backed coalition be “as broad as possible,” and not be dominated by European or western interests. Halvorsen wants clear leadership involvement coming from the Arab world as well.

Faremo, as a Labour Party defense minister for a longtime and loyal NATO member, appeared far more likely to support NATO leadership, which was firming up on Wednesday. The US, France and Great Britain agreed Wednesday morning that NATO take command of the Libyan operation, reported the British newspaper The Guardian. Both France and the US took preliminary leadership roles, but neither wanted to continue with full responsibility for the military assaults against Gadhafi.

Faremo earlier has said that Norwegian officials were working to place the Norwegian jets under the so-called Odyssey Dawn operation, which was coordinated by the US’ African command. She expected the jets, now stationed at the Greek military base at Souda Bay on Crete, to start flying over Libya by the end of the week.

Costs unknown
Meanwhile, Faremo told NRK that Norway’s participation in efforts to back up the UN resolution to protect Libyan civilians would cost at least NOK 70 million, while analysts said the cost was likely to be much higher.

Faremo’s figure was based “only on experience from earlier operations,” she said, and doesn’t include all the costs. The amount will be covered through extra funding granted to the Defense Ministry and military.

Norway has sent six F16 fighter jets to Crete, where they are waiting for deployment over Libya, along with 120 military personnel and a cargo aircraft. News bureau NTB reported that a similar mission to Afghanistan around a decade ago cost NOK 560 million for six months.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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