A French Air Force Mirage 2000 jet make preparations at the Solenzara military air base before a mission over Libya
A French Air Force Mirage 2000 jet make preparations at the Solenzara military air base before a mission over Libya Reuters

U.S. President Barack Obama said his country will relinquish its leading role in the Western alliance against Libya’s Moammar Gaddafi within days in order to guarantee that the responsibility of enforcing the UN-mandated “no fly zone” resolution Gaddafi is shared by various nations.

Speaking in Chile during a tour of South America, Obama also stated that NATO will have a key role in coordinating the air strikes on military targets in Libya.

We will be one of the partners among many, Obama said.

Obviously, the situation is evolving on the ground, and how quickly this transfer takes place will be determined by the recommendation of our commanding officers that the first phase of the mission has been completed.”

Obama cited previous crises in which the US acted unilaterally and without full international support and ended up bearing the full burden.

He added that while he supported NATO playing a more significant role in the Libyan operations, he will let the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, to determine later how to transfer the burden of responsibility of leading the attacks.

The US Defense Secretary Robert Gates also concurred that the US will lower its participation in the coalition operation. Gates was speaking in Russia, which is generally opposed to the imposition of the no-fly zone in Libya.

However, there are many obstacles in having NATO lead the Libyan offensive – all 28 members must unanimously agree on any measure.

Reportedly, Germany, France and Turkey oppose NATO playing a prominent role. It is believed they are sensitive to criticism from the Arab world.

Alain Juppe, France’s Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said the Arab countries did not wish to see the operation placed completely under NATO’s direction.

Complicating matters, Italy warned that it might rescind its offer of military bases as a launching pad for attacks on Libya if NATO does not take control.

It's important that the command passes to NATO with a different co-ordination structure than what we have now, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said.

Britain’s leader David Cameron strongly supported NATO taking over, citing its “tried and tested machinery in command and control.

Meanwhile, fighting rages in Libya with the sounds of explosions and anti-aircraft fire heard in the capitol Tripoli late Monday.

Libyan state television reported several new attacks on the city. Ibrahim Moussa, a spokesman for the Libyan government spokesman, also stated that many people died in an air strike on the airport.

Such reports from Libyan sources cannot be independently confirmed.