Bildt: Sweden expects Libya mission extension

Bildt: Sweden expects Libya mission extension
Sweden's foreign minister Carl Bildt expects Sweden to receive a request from NATO to extend its contribution to the UN-mandated Libya mission.

Bildt expects NATO to decide at its meeting on June 8th to extend the mission to impose and control a no-fly zone in the North African country.

According to preliminary information received by Sweden, NATO has identified the gaps that exist today.

“The preliminary indications are deficiencies in air reconnaissance, air refueling and ground combat. There are no naval deficiencies,” said Carl Bildt at a press briefing in parliament.

Social Democrat leader Håkan Juholt has argued that Sweden should not continue its deployment of Gripen planes to Libya, claiming that the Libyan air force has been eliminated.

But Carl Bildt has argued that the aircraft are still needed.

“It is essentially, if not entirely, correct. But intelligence-gathering resources are still needed. Qaddafi has resources which he has not used yet and if it develops into a ground offensive, it is important to detect these in time,” he said.

He pointed out that the Swedish planes have the capability to take very good pictures from planes which NATO doesn’t have.

“You should do what is necessary. We are not there for fun. We are part of an international team which will support the UN’s unique resolution,” said Bildt.

Bildt declined to answer whether he considered it more important to amend the deployment in order to keep the Social Democrats on board or whether the government was prepared to reach agreement with the Green Party to continue.

“We also aim in these circumstances to reach broad agreements. This is how it has been and how it should remain,” he said.

According to Bildt, Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt will contact the party leaders who took part in the first agreement if Sweden receives a new inquiry.

Carl Bildt meanwhile considers developments in Libya to be heading in the right direction, with Qaddafi’s troops forced to withdraw more than expected in some areas and that they are under intense bombardment in the mountains on the border with Tunisia.

“There is some movement in the whole picture which makes me a little less pessimistic than before,” he said.

Another indication is that Libya’s oil minister Shokri Ghanem has defected to Tunisia. Ghanem is a key figure who enjoys respect in both camps, according to Bildt.

“He is a key actor in the future,” he said.

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