The 28-member NATO has announced to take over all the international operations in Libya, including military operations to enforce no-fly-zone, enforcement of arms embargo and the civilian protections.

“NATO Allies have decided to take on the whole military operation in Libya under the United Nations Security Council Resolution. Our goal is to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas under threat of attack from the Qadhafi regime. NATO will implement all aspects of the U.N. Resolution. Nothing more, nothing less,” said NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen.

Terming it as a very significant step which proves NATO’s capability to take decisive action, Mr. Rasmussen said the alliance has put together a complete package of operations in support of the United Nations Resolution by sea and by air.

“We are already enforcing the arms embargo and the no fly zone, and with today’s decision we are going beyond. We will be acting in close coordination with our international and regional partners to protect the people of Libya. We have directed NATO’s top operational Commander to begin executing this operation with immediate effect,” he said on Sunday in a statement in Brussels, the NATO headquarters.

With this U.S. President Barack Obama has accomplished his earlier announcement that the United States would hand over its operations on Libya within days, a senior Administration Official told reporters in Washington.

“From this moment on forward, NATO will be in command not only of the no-fly zone, not only of enforcing the arms embargo, but now also of the civilian protection mission,” the official said.

“We did what the President wanted. We were going to take the lead in the initial period, providing our unique capabilities to shape the battlefield, but then within days, we would hand over control of that operation to others,” he said.

“That’s what we accomplished today in NATO with all 28 allies now agreeing that not only the no-fly zone, not only the arms embargo, but also the civilian protection mission would come under NATO — under NATO command, under NATO control, and on NATO political guidance,” he said.

At its meeting in Brussels, NATO changed and amended the existing no-fly zone plan to include the mission for civilian protection.

Supreme Allied Commander Europe General Admiral Jim Stavridis is in charge and as he is of all NATO operations. The joint task force commander is a three-star General from Canada, General Charles Bouchard. He is in-charge of all aspects of the NATO operation, including the arms embargo.

The U.S. official said the mandate is to protect civilian and civilian-populated areas from attack. “Any forces that are attacking or threatening to attack civilians will be subject to targeting by NATO in exactly the same way they’re subject to targeting by the coalition today, or up to this point,” he said.

More In: International | News