The U.N. Security Council voted unanimously Thursday to end its authorization on Monday of the foreign military intervention in Libya, the legal basis for the NATO attacks on Moammar Gadhafi’s forces during the eight-month civil war that toppled him from power.
The council’s action, a week after Gadhafi was killed as he sought to escape his final refuge in Sirte, his hometown, was not unexpected. But it came despite new worries in Libya that Gadhafi’s remaining loyalists might not be vanquished, and that they might regroup outside Libya to cause new trouble in the months ahead.
Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, the leader of the interim Libyan government, said Wednesday that he had asked NATO to extend its operations through the end of the year, partly over concerns about leftover Gadhafi loyalists.
But NATO ministers, who are scheduled to meet Friday at the alliance’s headquarters in Brussels, are expected to officially declare Monday as their final day of action in Libya, in accordance with the Security Council’s action.
“Tomorrow we will confirm and formalize that decision,” Anders Fogh Rasmussen, NATO’s secretary general, told reporters in Berlin after a visit with Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany. He called the operation “probably one of the most successful missions in the history of NATO.”
Rasmussen did not rule out a future role for NATO in Libya.
“If requested, we can assist the new Libyan government in the transformation to democracy, for instance with defense and security sector reform,” he said. “But I wouldn’t expect new tasks beyond that.”
The Security Council vote, streamed on the Internet on the U.N. website, was conducted swiftly and without discussion, reflecting a view that after Gadhafi’s death and Abdul-Jalil’s proclamation of victory in a national celebration Sunday, there was no need for further intervention.
The council had authorized a no-fly zone and military action to protect Libyan civilians in a resolution that was passed March 17. At that time, Gadhafi’s forces were threatening to annihilate the Libyans who were challenging his 42-year grip on power, inspired by the uprisings that had toppled Arab autocrats in Tunisia and Egypt.
NATO used the resolution as justification for bombing attacks on Gadhafi’s forces, which some Security Council members, notably Russia, considered beyond the scope of the measure’s intent. The NATO attacks are widely credited with helping the coalition of Libyan rebels to oust Gadhafi.
William Hague, the foreign secretary of Britain, which along with France and the United States were the core participants in NATO’s Libyan operation, said in a statement that the Security Council’s move Thursday was “another significant milestone toward a peaceful, democratic future for Libya.” He added, “Ending the no-fly zone and the civilian protection provisions demonstrates that Libya has entered a new era.”