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UN ends Libya no-fly zone

The UN Security Council on Thursday unanimously voted to end the mandate for international military action in Libya, ending another chapter in the war against Moamer Kadhafi’s regime.

NATO, which carried out the air strikes that played a key role in the downfall of Kadhafi, says it is studying new ways to help the National Transitional Council which had asked for an extension to the mandate.

A Security Council resolution ordered the end of the authorization for a no-fly zone and action to protect civilians from 11:59 pm Libyan time (2159 GMT) on October 31.

Following the vote, NATO’s decision-making body, the North Atlantic Council, is to meet on Friday in Brussels to formally declare an end to its seven-month-old air war.

Security Council Resolution 2016 also eased an international arms embargo so that the NTC can acquire weapons and equipment for its national security.

It ended an assets freeze on the Libyan National Oil Corporation and virtually all restrictions on the central bank and other key institutions. It completely ended the ban on international flights by Libyan registered planes.

The NTC declared the formal “liberation” of Libya on October 23, three days after the killing of Kadhafi. But interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil on Wednesday urged NATO to extend its campaign until the end of the year because of the continuing threat from Kadhafi loyalists.

Security Council resolutions passed in February and March which approved a no-fly zone have caused divisions on the 15-nation body ever since.

Russia, China, South Africa, Brazil and India accused NATO of going beyond the mandate with the air strikes against Kadhafi targets. The NATO allies insist they stayed within the “all necessary means” provision laid down to protect civilians.

Russia’s UN ambassador Vitaly Churkin said an extension past October 31 would be “unrealistic.” South Africa was also opposed to any flexibility. South Africa’s UN envoy Baso Sangqu said he wanted the mission ended “yesterday.”

Without mentioning the death of Kadhafi, the 15-member Security Council expressed “grave concern” however over “reprisals, arbitrary detentions, wrongful imprisonment and extra-judicial executions in Libya.”

It called for “respect for human rights and the rule of law” and for Libyan authorities “to refrain from reprisals.”

The resolution also stressed the interim government’s responsibility to protect foreign nationals and African migrants.

The Security Council said it looked forward “to a future for Libya based on national reconciliation, justice, respect for human rights and the rule of law.”

The interim government has expressed concern about the impact of sanctions on efforts to get the country’s economy moving again.

As well as the national oil company, the Security Council lifted sanctions on Zuetina Oil Company.

The resolution lifted virtually all restrictions on the Central Bank of Libya, the Libyan Arab Foreign Bank, the Libyan Investment Authority, and the Libyan Africa Investment Portfolio.

The remaining sanctions are the arms embargo and individual measures against surviving members of Kadhafi’s family and associates.

NATO allies are in discussions amongst themselves and with the NTC about assisting the transitional council, diplomats said.

US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Wednesday that the NTC “may foresee a future role for NATO.”

NATO is still conducting some air patrols over and around Libya, alliance officials said.

“We are continuing to monitor the situation and we are ready to act if necessary,” a NATO official told AFP in Brussels.

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