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London backs NATO role in Libya

Libyan rebels take their positions after fighting with pro-Gadhafi forces in the western city of Ajdabiya, Libya on April 13, 2011. The British government reiterated its support of NATO's ongoing role in the civil war. UPI/Tarek Alhuony
1 of 4 | Libyan rebels take their positions after fighting with pro-Gadhafi forces in the western city of Ajdabiya, Libya on April 13, 2011. The British government reiterated its support of NATO's ongoing role in the civil war. UPI/Tarek Alhuony | License Photo

LONDON, June 2 (UPI) -- London backs NATO's decision to extend operations in Libya, the foreign secretary said amid claims by a U.N. panel of war crimes on both sides of the conflict.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen announced Tuesday that the 33-member alliance was extending operations into September. NATO is operating in the skies over Libya in support of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 that authorized military force in order to protect civilians from attacks by forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

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"This decision sends a clear message to the Gadhafi regime," said Rasmussen.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he welcomed the decision to extend NATO operations in Libya. In a statement, he said it was a reaffirmation of the determination to implement U.N. mandates for Libya.

"The U.K. will continue to work closely with our international partners to support the legitimate aspirations and demands of the Libyan people," he stated.

London denied claims made by British newspapers that it had personnel on the ground in Libya. Hague said recently that military liaisons were helping rebel forces with logistical issues, however.

The three-member International Commission of Inquiry submitted its report on Libya to the U.N. Human Rights Council. The commission found that Gadhafi's forces had committed war crimes in Libya.

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"The commission received fewer reports of facts which would amount to the commission of international crimes by opposition forces; however, it did find some acts which would constitute war crimes," the commission added.

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