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Gaddafi forces in disarray after assault: Pentagon

world Updated: Mar 21, 2011 21:40 IST

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A US-led coalition has succeeded in scattering and isolating Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi's forces after a weekend of punishing air attacks, Pentagon officials said, adding that American military authorities are moving to hand control of the operation to other countries.

Gaddafi is not a target of the campaign, a senior military official said on Sunday, but he could not guarantee the Libyan leader's safety.

Navy Vice Adm. William E. Gortney, staff director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a Pentagon news conference there is no evidence civilians in Libya have been harmed in the air assault, code named Odyssey Dawn. Gortney also said no allied planes have been lost and all pilots have returned safely from missions that used stealth B-2 bombers, jet fighters, more than 120 Tomahawk cruise missiles and other high-tech weapons.

"We judge these strikes to have been very effective in significantly degrading the regime's air defense capability," Gortney said. "We believe his forces are under significant stress and suffering from both isolation and a good deal of confusion."

But Gortney did not rule out the possibility of further attacks aimed at preventing Gaddafi from attacking civilians in Libya and enforcing a no-fly zone.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the US expects to turn control of the mission over to a coalition probably headed either by the French and British or by NATO "in a matter of days."

Late Sunday, however, NATO's top decision-making body failed to agree on a plan to enforce the no-fly zone over Libya, although it did approve a military plan to implement a UN arms embargo.