Sarkozy Rebuts Gates's Remarks On Libya Strikes
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BRUSSELS -- President Nicolas Sarkozy of France said on Friday that criticism by the departing United States defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, about European support for operations in Libya had been motivated by personal reasons and was grossly unfair.
"Obviously Robert Gates was about to step down and go into retirement, and he was obviously not very happy about this, and possibly this explains his rather bitter words," Mr. Sarkozy said during a news conference at the end of a two-day summit meeting of European heads of state and government.
"I think he obviously hasn't studied very closely what has been going on in Libya because I do not have the sense that in Libya most of the work is being done by our American friends," Mr. Sarkozy said. Mr. Gates made an "unfair statement" that "doesn't even correspond to any kind of truth," the French president said.
Since March, NATO has been conducting airstrikes against forces loyal to Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi of Libya, who has been trying to crush a rebellion in the country he has ruled for more than 40 years. France and Britain have taken the lead in the NATO effort, which began after the Security Council authorized the use of force against Colonel Qaddafi's military to prevent the killing of Libyan civilians. But he appears to remain entrenched, raising questions about the effectiveness of the NATO strikes.
Geoff Morrell, the Pentagon press secretary, said the Defense Department would not offer any response to Mr. Sarkozy's statements.
This month, Mr. Gates delivered a major policy address in Brussels in which he urged NATO to increase its commitments to the alliance's collective security efforts. In particular, he singled out "NATO's serious capability gaps and other institutional shortcomings laid bare by the Libya operation."
But the defense secretary's critique of NATO went much further. He cited what he described as significant shortages of military spending and political will.
First Published June 25, 2011 12:01 am