* NATO mission chief can’t confirm plan to blow up Tripoli
* Says regime told retreating troops to destroy facilities
* Canadian minister says conflict needs NATO persistence
OTTAWA, July 14 (Reuters) - Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has ordered his troops to blow up refineries and other facilities if they have to retreat, the Canadian head of the NATO mission over Libya said on Thursday.
Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard said he was unable to confirm any plan by Gaddafi to demolish the capital Tripoli if the rebels captured it, as reported by Russian envoy Mikhail Margelov in the Russian newspaper Izvestia.
“However, I can report that the Gaddafi regime has given direction to its forces to destroy certain facilities as they withdraw back, such as fuel refineries and other aspects,” he told Canadian-based reporters in a call from Italy, where NATO’s Libyan operation is based.
He added the caveat: “Just because Gaddafi has given a direction does not mean that direction is being undertaken by his own troops. We’ve seen a fair bit of his troops, of his generals, surrendering, of his troops abandoning their posts.”
He said he did not know of any plan of the magnitude of demolishing government buildings and infrastructure in Tripoli.
On the same call, Canadian Defense Minister Peter MacKay said Libya was a test for the NATO alliance.
“It’s a conflict that is going to require a determined, persistent, unified approach. Those are all watchwords when it comes to how NATO will continue with its effort,” he said. (Reporting by Randall Palmer; Editing by Vicki Allen)