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Media Availability with Secretary Gates at the NATO Defense Ministers Meeting from Brussels, Belgium

Presenter: Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates
March 10, 2011

                  SEC. GATES:  Thank you all for being here.

                 We had a very good discussion this afternoon on Libya and our concern about the Gaddafi regime's escalating attacks on its own people.  We all agreed that NATO will only act if there is demonstrable need, a sound legal basis, and strong regional support.  We also agreed to continue planning for all military options.

                 I welcomed SACEUR's decision to reposition naval assets in the central Mediterranean to enhance our ability to monitor the U.N. arms embargo and to provide support for humanitarian efforts by the U.N., EU and others.  This builds on the decision earlier this week to increase around-the-clock aerial surveillance of Libya.

                 Be happy to take a couple of questions.  Bob Burns.

                 Q:  Right here, Mr. Secretary.  Could you give us any details on the number or type of ships that are going to be moved?  Are they being moved closer, or is it an increased number of ships?  And can you also say whether the no-fly zone option which the secretary-general mentioned is essentially dead for now?

                 SEC. GATES:  Well, I would say that, first of all, with respect to the latter, planning will continue under SACEUR's auspices, but that's the extent of it with respect to a no-fly zone.

                 In the first instance, it's my impression that we're really not talking so much about increasing the number of ships as it is repositioning ships that are already in the region.

                 Q:  Closer to Libya, you mean?

                 SEC. GATES:  Yeah.

                 Q:  Mr. Secretary, doesn't NATO, and in effect the U.S., risk looking powerless here as these attacks continue on the rebels and they're increasingly in an untenable position?

                 SEC. GATES:  Well, I think the key factor here is, first of all, the limitations of the U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970, which, even when it comes to the embargo, does not provide the authority for enforcement.  So if there were to be -- if there were to be a need for enforcement, there would need to be a new U.N. Security Council resolution even for that purpose.

                 GEOFF MORRELL (Pentagon Press Secretary):  Take one last one from a European.  Yeah, go ahead.

                 Q:  (Name and affiliation inaudible) -- Egypt.  While you are preparing putting your plan, are you consider also the opinion, the Arabian opinion, since the Arabian opinion have, let's say -- (inaudible) -- against any NATO activity in the Arab world?

                 SEC. GATES:  We are very mindful of opinion in the region, and that's one of the reasons that one of the three central criteria with respect to any action requires strong regional support.  I think that a number of ministers made clear that we were -- we wanted to put ourselves in a position to assist the Arab League, the African Union or the U.N. in this endeavor, and very sensitive to NATO being responsive to those organizations rather than taking an initiative on its own.

                 MR. MORRELL:  Thank you all.