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LIBYA: Pentagon chief Gates cautions against targeting Kadafi

March 20, 2011 |  5:36 pm

  U.S. Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates reported success Sunday in imposing a no-fly zone over Libya but cautioned against direct attacks against Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi.

Any attacks that go beyond a U.N. mandate calling for the protection of rebel-held areas and prevention of attacks on civilians risks disrupting the “very diverse coalition” that agreed to the campaign, Gates told reporters en route to Russia, according to CNN.

“This is basically going to have to be resolved by the Libyans themselves,” he was quoted as saying by the Bloomberg news service.

Asked at a Pentagon news briefing about reports of smoke rising from Kadafi’s compound, U.S. Navy Vice Adm. Bill Gortney said the Libyan leader was not being targeted.

Gortney said that he had no indication of civilian casualties, rejecting Libyan claims that international forces had hit a hospital and other civilian targets.

Speaking on CNN’s "State of the Union," Navy Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that the coalition had destroyed most of Kadafi's air defenses and that the no-fly zone was “effectively in place.”

National security advisor Tom Donilon, briefing reporters in Rio de Janeiro on Sunday night, dismissed claims by the Kadafi regime that it had implemented a cease-fire.

"Our view at this point is that it isn't true or it's been immediately violated,'' Donilon said. "So we'll continue to monitor Kadafi's actions, not just his words.''

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— Alexandra Zavis and Peter Nicholas

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