U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Thursday that NATO will continue launching airstrikes in Libya as long as the clashes continue between rebel fighters and forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi, despite pressure from NATO allies to stop the bombing.

NATO officials said they plan to continue the strikes at least until Gadhafi’s hometown has been captured, which they say will probably happen sooner rather than later. –BF

Los Angeles Times:

“If there continues to be serious fighting, if there continues to be threats to the civilian population, then I’m sure this mission will continue,” Panetta told reporters after two days of meetings with defense chiefs and military commanders at the North Atlantic Treaty Organization headquarters in Brussels.

During the talks, U.S. and French officials pushed to sustain the air war at least until rebel fighters capture Surt, Kadafi’s hometown. Other NATO members privately urged a quicker halt to the operation, arguing that the alliance had essentially achieved its mission of protecting Libyan civilians, even if fighting continues in scattered pockets.

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