The UN Security Council on Thursday unanimously voted to end the mandate for international military action in Libya, ending another chapter in the war against Moamer Kadhafi's regime.
NATO, which carried out the air strikes that played a key role in the downfall of Kadhafi, says it is studying new ways to help the National Transitional Council which had asked for an extension to the mandate.
Security Council resolution 2016 ordered the end of the authorization for a no-fly zone and action to protect civilians from 11:59 pm Libyan time (2159 GMT) on October 31.
NATO's decision-making North Atlantic Council will now meet on Friday in Brussels to formally declare an end to the seven-month-old air war.
The Security Council remained divided on the Libya campaign right to the end however.
The 15-member council voted resolutions in February and March authorizing "all necessary measures" to protect civilians and sanctions against the Kadhafi regime over its deadly assault on opposition protests.
Russia, China, Brazil, India and South Africa had accused NATO of breaching the UN authorization resolutions with their air attacks.
France, Britain and the United States, which led the air strikes, remained defiant over their action.
"We are particularly proud of having been since the beginning on the side of the Libyan people," French envoy Gerard Araud told reporters after the vote.
Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague called the resolution "another significant milestone towards a peaceful, democratic future for Libya."
US ambassador Susan Rice said, "this closes what I think history will judge to be a proud chapter in the Security Council's experience." She insisted that the opponents knew what kind of military action was going to be conducted against Kadhafi.
Russian ambassador Vitaly Churkin reaffirmed however that "numerous violations" of UN resolutions had been carried out in the campaign.
"We believe that serious lessons must be learned from the experience of Libya in order for the Security Council continued to perform its duties more effectively, to act together and coherently," he said.
Russia is now preparing a council resolution drawing attention to the huge number of weapons -- ranging from shoulder-fired missile launchers to small arms -- that have been left by the Kadhafi regime and which many governments fear are being acquired by militant groups in other countries.
Without mentioning the death of Kadhafi, the Security Council expressed "grave concern" over "reprisals, arbitrary detentions, wrongful imprisonment and extra-judicial executions in Libya."
It called for "respect for human rights and the rule of law" and for Libyan authorities "to refrain from reprisals."
The resolution also stressed the interim government's responsibility to protect foreign nationals and African migrants.
The NTC declared the formal "liberation" of Libya on October 23, three days after the killing of Kadhafi. But interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil on Wednesday urged NATO to extend its campaign until the end of the year because of the continuing threat from Kadhafi loyalists.
The interim government has expressed concern about the impact of sanctions on efforts to get the country's economy moving again.
NATO allies are in discussions amongst themselves and with the NTC about assisting the transitional council, diplomats said.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Wednesday that the NTC "may foresee a future role for NATO."
NATO is still conducting some air patrols over and around Libya, alliance officials said.
"We are continuing to monitor the situation and we are ready to act if necessary," a NATO official told AFP in Brussels.
The Security Council has eased an international arms embargo so that the NTC can acquire weapons and equipment for its national security.
by Tim Witcher
(c) 2011 AFP
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