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    NATO mulling 'range of options' in Libya - Rasmussen

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    NATO is considering a range of options, including humanitarian aid and military intervention, but any action should have a clear legal basis, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday.

    NATO is considering a range of options, including humanitarian aid and military intervention, but any action should have a clear legal basis, NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on Thursday.

    Speaking at a meeting of NATO defense ministers, Rasmussen said other principles of action should include a demonstrable need and strong support in the region.

    "Each day, each hour, we have reports about new violence perpetrated by the regime against civilians, that is to say, by Colonel Gaddafi against his own people," Mr. Rasmussen said.

    He said "time is of the essence" and the organization is ready to help if "we have a clear mandate."

    "It does not mean we are deciding to consider carrying out specific operational steps today, but it does mean we are watching what the Libyan regime does to its people very closely indeed," he said.

    Another possibility is the introduction of a no-fly zone over Libyan airspace. Gaddafi said on Wednesday the proposal was a "colonialist plot" by the West to steal Libyan oil.

    Calls for the zone closure have stepped up in recent days after Libyan armed forces launched further air strikes on the rebel frontline in the east of the country.

    According to some media reports NATO's military staff have started drawing up contingency plans for sending air and naval forces into combat if called upon.

    Thousands of people have been killed since the first protesters began demanding the end of Gaddafi's 42-year rule in mid-February.

    BRUSSELS, March 10 (RIA Novosti) 

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