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Europe’s leaders split on the way forward

Associated Press / March 22, 2011

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BRUSSELS — Discord erupted yesterday in Europe over whether the military operation in Libya should be controlled by NATO after Turkey blocked the alliance’s participation while Italy issued a veiled threat to withdraw the use of its bases unless the alliance was put in charge.

Germany also questioned the wisdom of the operation, and Russia’s Vladimir Putin railed against the UN-backed airstrikes mounted so far against Moammar Khadafy’s force by Britain, France, and the United States outside of their NATO roles.

“The Security Council resolution is flawed, it allows everything and is reminiscent of a medieval call for a crusade,’’ Putin said. “In fact, it allows intervention in a sovereign state.’’

A day after Turkey declined to support a military plan for the alliance to enforce a Libya no-fly zone, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he could support the NATO effort only if it does not turn into an occupation.

“NATO should only enter Libya to determine that Libya belongs to Libyans and not to distribute its natural resources and richness to others,’’ Erdogan said during a visit to Saudi Arabia.

Diplomats said Turkey, a NATO member that sees itself as a bridge between Europe and the Muslim world, was angered by its exclusion from an emergency summit Saturday in Paris organized by President Nicolas Sarkozy of France, at which the 22 participants agreed to launch armed action against the Libyan military.

France ended up making the first strikes, and the diplomats said Turkey’s envoys had warned that NATO’s participation could damage its standing in the Islamic world while it is heavily engaged in the war in Afghanistan.

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