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The World

March 26, 2011

US considers more firepower to hit Gadhafi forces

(Continued)

WASHINGTON —

American officials have said they won't drop bombs in cities to avoid killing or wounding civilians — a central pillar of the operation. Yet they want to hit the enemy in contested urban areas.

"The difficulty in identifying friend from foe anywhere is always a difficult challenge," Navy Vice Adm. William Gortney, staff director for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday at the Pentagon. The difficulty in distinguishing "friend from foe inside an urban environment is magnified significantly."

Army Gen. Carter Ham, the U.S. officer in charge of the overall international mission, told The Associated Press, the focus is on disrupting the communications and supply lines that allow Gadhafi's forces to keep fighting in the contested cities.

Ham said in a telephone interview from his U.S. Africa Command headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany, that the U.S. expected NATO would take command of the no-fly zone mission on Sunday, with a Canadian three-star general, Charles Bouchard, in charge. Bouchard would report to an American admiral, Samuel Locklear, in Locklear's role as commander of NATO's Allied Joint Force Command Naples, he said.

But with the Obama administration eager to take a back seat in the Libya campaign, it is still when — or even if — the U.S. military's Africa Command would shift the lead role in attacking Libyan ground targets to NATO. U.S officials say the alliance is finalizing the details of the transfer this weekend.

Obama spoke with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders about Libya on Friday afternoon. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said he was concerned that the current military action might not be enough force Gadhafi from power, his spokeswoman said.

Brooke Buchanan said McCain, the top Republican in the Senate Armed Services Committee, supports the military intervention but fears it could lead to a stalemate that leaves Gadhafi's government in place.

___

Associated Press writers Robert Burns, Ben Feller and Jim Kuhnhenn contributed to this report.

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