NATO decided on Monday to provide the surveillance. Orders to the E—3 squadron went out on Tuesday, said the official who could not be identified under standing rules.

NATO says it has started round—the—clock surveillance of the air space over Libya, where government jets have been pounding rebel positions in an effort to defeat an uprising.

A NATO official said the first airborne warning and control plane went on patrol at 6-30 GMT (1-30 a.m. EST) on Thursday morning. He says each of the Boeing E—3 Sentry aircraft will remain over the Mediterranean for eight hours before being replaced by another plane.

NATO has 17 E—3s. Several planes are currently operating over Afghanistan. The entire fleet is registered in Luxembourg, a country without an air force.

NATO decided on Monday to provide the surveillance. Orders to the E—3 squadron went out on Tuesday, said the official who could not be identified under standing rules.

More In: International | News