NATO may not end its mission in Libya as early as planned, CNN quoted U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta as saying on Tuesday.
Last week, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the alliance was planning to wind down its operation in Libya by October 31. The preliminary decision was approved during a NATO council meeting on Friday, with the formal statement expected to be made this week.
But Panetta told journalists during his visit to Japan on Tuesday that Libya’s ruling National Transitional Council wanted NATO to extend its mission.
"I noticed today that there were comments from some of the Libya leadership asking that NATO continue its mission during this interim as they are trying to establish some of their governance," CNN quoted the U.S. minister as saying.
The decision is up to NATO, he said, adding that the United States is looking at its long-term relations with Libya's military.
Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin said last week Russia was introducing a resolution in the UN Security Council calling for an end to the no-fly zone over Libya. Moscow hopes that the resolution will be passed "in the next few days," he said.
The UN Security Council passed Resolution 1973 introducing a no-fly zone over Libya in March, a month after an uprising against Col. Muammar Gaddafi’s authoritarian rule broke out in the North African country. The resolution also authorized "all necessary measures" to protect Libyan civilians from attacks by pro-Gaddafi troops.
The U.S.-led military operation in Libya began on March 19. NATO took over control of the operation on March 31.
Gaddafi, who had ruled Libya for 42 years, was buried in a secret grave in the Libyan desert earlier on Tuesday. He died after being captured alive by National Transitional Council fighters near his home town of Sirte last week.