Officials said the administration of President Barack Obama has sent
messages that urged Turkey to join combat air missions against the regime of
Col. Moammar Gadhafi. They said the messages have come from the Defense
Department and State Department as part of a U.S.-led drive to intensify
military pressure on Gadhafi.
"Turkey is a full member of NATO and must assume such obligations," an
official said. "It wants to be a leader in the Middle East, and this is a
test of leadership."
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On June 8, NATO and Arab League representatives met in the United Arab
Emirates to discuss the future of the war against Gadhafi. Officials said
the representatives agreed that the NATO mission, begun in March and
joined by at least two Arab states, could not continue indefinitely and must
end with Gadhafi's ouster.
Officials said Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State
Hillary Clinton have been pressing Turkey to join air combat operations over
Libya. So far, the government of Prime Minister Recep Erdogan has kept
Turkey in a support role, including allowing NATO to plan operations from
its base in Izmir.
"Turkey could begin air operations under the NATO umbrella almost
immediately," another official said. "It has the assets and means of
At the same time, NATO has intensified bombing of the Libyan capital of
Tripoli, the command and control headquarters of the Gadhafi regime.
Officials said NATO was employing a mix of fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft
to destroy regime facilities.