Three days after the first aerial attacks were launched against the forces of Libya's Muammar Qadhafi, serious cracks have appeared in the U.N.-backed coalition.

Several countries, resenting the over-riding presence of Britain and France, have expressed the wish that NATO takes over the command and control role in the mission.

Norway has already suspended its flights until the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance takes over or “until there is a clarification in the commandment”. Norwegian F-16 planes which had arrived in Italy left for Crete where they will be parked until a decision is reached.

Italy and Luxemburg have expressed the hope that the overall command will pass into the hands of the Atlantic Alliance. But Germany and Turkey said that if NATO does assume command, they would not like to see the continued bombing of targets in Libya.

Currently the operations led by France, Britain and the United States are coordinated from headquarters located at the U.S. bases of Ramstein in Germany and Naples in southern Italy.

“My country and several others have just one way in which to get involved and that is through the framework of NATO,” Luxemburg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn told reporters.

Italy has gone so far as to say that unless the question was resolved, it would stop the use of its airbases in Naples and Trapani, which have currently been placed at the disposition of the coalition, by the British and the French.

France so far has rejected these demands arguing that Arab nations would not like to be part of a NATO effort and could end up turning their backs on the military effort against Libya altogether.

Turkey a major member of the Atlantic Alliance sharply criticised what it called France's “self-appointed role as the enforcer of the UN Resolution 1973”. The antipathy between Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan and French President Nicolas Sarkozy is well known.

In a speech in Parliament, Mr. Erdogan maintained his country would “never point a gun at the Libyan people”, adding that Ankara's position would be explained to NATO allies at a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday. Turkey has doubts over whether military intervention is justified in Libya and wants to encourage a peaceful transition of power from leader Muammar Qadhafi's rule, he said.

As far as the US response is concerned, Defence Secretary Robert Gates indicated that his country would disengage itself from the military operation in the days to come without exactly explaining how, the Interfax news agency reported. He expressed the wish that the responsibility for coordinating the operation against Mr. Qadhafi be assumed either by “France and Britain” or by “the NATO machinery”. Britain's Prime Minister David Cameron said he favoured an eventual takeover of the overall command for operations by NATO and suggested that the commanding officer could be British, French or American.

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