The United Nations Security Council voted to end its authorization of NATO’s military operation in Libya that resulted in the demise of Muammar Qaddafi and his regime.
The 15-member body, which approved “all necessary measures” on March 17 to protect civilians from Qaddafi’s crackdown on protests, unanimously voted today to terminate on Oct. 31 the mandate for the North Atlantic Treaty Organization to bomb the North African country and enforce a no-fly zone.
The decision was made in New York as Mustafa Abdel Jalil, head of Libya’s ruling council, expressed his wish for NATO operations to continue for at least two more months. Russia, which has repeatedly criticized the U.S. and Europe for overstepping the UN mandate and seeking a change of regime, called for operations to be “terminated immediately.”
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance will “confirm and formalize” its decision to end its campaign in Libya on the last day of the month following the UN vote, dismissing the possibility of an extension.
“In Libya, we have fully complied with the historic mandate of the United Nations to protect civilians against the threat of attacks,” Rasmussen told reporters in Berlin today after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel. “Libyans can safely take their future into their own hands.”
Libya’s National Transitional Council may still need outside help to secure Libya’s borders and to collect arms stockpiles, amid evidence of looters taking weapons, including Russian-made portable anti-aircraft missiles sought by terrorists.
Rasmussen said he doesn’t foresee a “major NATO role” in post-conflict Libya, though he said the alliance could offer assistance in “defense and security sector reforms.”
The UN resolution expresses “concern at the proliferation of arms in Libya and its potential impact on regional peace and security” and says the council will address the issue further.
NATO began its air campaign a month after a revolt against Qaddafi’s government began. Libya was the third country in the region this year in which uprisings have led to a change of leadership; the others are Tunisia and Egypt.
Since the Arab Spring got under way, Libya has been the only instance in which the UN sanctioned outside military intervention.
The Oct. 20 death of Qaddafi marked the start of a new political chapter for the holder of Africa’s biggest crude oil reserves. The new leaders are seeking to rebuild a war-torn economy and construct institutions from scratch in a country that Qaddafi governed for four decades without a constitution.
The International Monetary Fund estimates Libya’s economy will contract more than 50 percent in 2011 because the months of fighting between Qaddafi loyalists and the one-time rebels who now run the country have paralyzed its oil industry.
Libya was producing about 1.6 million barrels of oil a day before the conflict broke out in mid-February. Output slumped to a “trickle,” said the International Energy Agency.
The circumstances surrounding Qaddafi’s death have led to calls for a fuller investigation. The NTC’s version of events is that Qaddafi died in a “crossfire.”
Ibrahim Dabbashi, who became the voice of the NTC at the UN after defecting from the Qaddafi regime in February, told the Security Council yesterday that when Qaddafi was arrested he “was bleeding from his abdomen and head” and died before getting to the hospital in Misrata.