NATO chief: Gathafi war machine significantly degraded

'Strong military pressure'

BRATISLAVA - NATO's bombing campaign in Libya has significantly degraded veteran leader Moamer Gathafi's military power, the alliance's Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday.
"We have significantly degraded Gathafi's war machine and now we see the results -- the opposition has gained ground," Rasmussen said after talks in the Slovak capital Bratislava with President Ivan Gasparovic.
"The Gathafi regime is more and more isolated every day," the NATO chief added.
"We will keep a strong military pressure on the Gathafi regime and I'm confident that a combination of a strong military pressure and increased political pressure and support for the opposition will eventually lead to collapse of the regime."
The NATO chief elaborated three objectives of the alliance's campaign in Libya, and vowed to continue the mission until all were accomplished.
"There are three clear military objectives for our operation," Rasmussen told reporters.
"Firstly, a complete end to all attacks against civilians. Secondly, withdrawal of Gathafi's military forces and paramilitary forces to their bases. And thirdly, immediate and unhindered humanitarian access to people in need in Libya.
"We will continue our operation until these objectives are fulfilled," he vowed.
Rasmussen stressed the NATO mission was restricted to enforcing the UN-mandated no-fly zone and that there were no plans for alliance troops to set foot on Libyan soil.
"We have no plans to change our strategy, we operate on the basis of UN mandate. In the UN resolution it is specifically excluded to put troops on the ground. We have no intention to put troops on the ground," Rasmussen said later Thursday following talks with Slovak foreign minister Mikulas Dzurinda.
"I believe we are able to carry out this mission within this mandate," he added.
With almost daily bombardments by NATO jets, acting under the UN mandate to enforce a no-fly zone and protect civilians, Gathafi forces have lost control of vast swathes of the east of the country to anti-regime rebels.
But on Thursday, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon warned the humanitarian crisis in Libya was worsening amid failed attempts to secure a ceasefire.