WASHINGTON, May 8 (Reuters) - The head of the NATO military alliance said on Sunday he was optimistic Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s “time is over,” but said the conflict would require a political — not military — solution.
“We have stopped Gaddafi in his track. His time is running out. He’s more and more isolated,” NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told CNN’s “State of the Union” program.
Rasmussen said with the pro-democracy “wind change in North Africa and the Middle East,” the death of al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the Taliban under pressure in Afghanistan, he was “very optimistic” that “Gaddafi’s time is over.”
NATO coalition aircraft have been bombing Libyan government military targets and enforcing a no-fly zone since March under a U.N. resolution.
But the operation has not kept scores from being killed in government attacks on pockets of rebellion in western Libya.
To break the stalemate between the rebels and pro-Gaddafi forces, Rasmussen said: “First of all we have to realize that there is no military solution. We will need a political solution.”
Asked whether NATO’s mission to protect civilians could be accomplished if Gaddafi stays, he said it was “hard to imagine the attacks, the outrageous and systematic attacks against Libyan people, will stop as long as Gaddafi remains in power.”
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for Gaddafi’s ouster and the United States led the first week of the NATO mission’s bombing campaign but has since taken a back seat.
Asked on ABC’s “This Week” if the United States will expand its role in Libya, Tom Donilon, U.S. national security advisor, said NATO had “all the assets that are needed to engage in civilian protection mission and they are engaging in it.” (Writing by Vicki Allen; editing by Laura MacInnis)