LONDON (Reuters) – NATO must broaden its range of bombing targets in Libya or run the risk of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi clinging on to power, the chief of defence staff was quoted as saying on Sunday.
General David Richards suggested in an interview NATO should attack Libyan infrastructure, which is not yet on its target list.
NATO is bombing Libya under a U.N. mandate to protect civilians and says it strikes only military targets.
The leaders of Britain, France and the United States say they will not halt the campaign until Gaddafi leaves power.
Richards said the military campaign to date had been a “significant success” for NATO, but it needed to do more.
“If we do not up the ante now there is a risk that the conflict could result in Gaddafi clinging to power,” the Sunday Telegraph newspaper quoted him as saying.
“At present, NATO is not attacking infrastructure targets in Libya. But if we want to increase the pressure on Gaddafi’s regime then we need to give serious consideration to increasing the range of targets we can hit.”
Rebels have been fighting for three months against Gaddafi’s rule and control the city of Benghazi and the oil-producing east. The war has reached a virtual stalemate, with recent fighting centred on the port city of Misrata in the west and in the Western Mountains region.
Richards was quoted as saying NATO was not targeting Gaddafi directly, “but if it happened that he was in a command and control centre that was hit by NATO and he was killed, then that is within the rules.”
Britain’s Defence Secretary Liam Fox, responding to Richards’ comments, told BBC television: “I think the point he was making is that a number of NATO countries have been less happy about some of the targeting and about some of the assets being destroyed.”
He said Britain’s parameters were “probably slightly more widely drawn” than some of its allies, and it had increasingly been dealing with the regime’s static command and control and intelligence networks rather than moving targets such as tanks.
U.N aid chief Valerie Amos, who has called for a temporary cessation to the fighting, said “we need a political solution as quickly as we can.”
“I am concerned that any up-scaling of the fighting will have a significant impact on people,” she told BBC radio during a trip to the West Bank.