The US, France and the UK have agreed to transfer command of the air operations over Libya to Nato. Political oversight will be handed to a separate body made up of members of the coalition, including Qatar and the UAE.
The decision will have to be agreed to by all Nato member states at an ambassadorial meeting on 23 March.
Military command will go to Admiral James Stavridis, the US supreme allied commander in Europe, who is based in Nato’s military headquarters in Mons, Belgium.
The move is a diplomatic triumph for the US, who had been undertaking intensive efforts to relinquish control of the operation.
The agreement was against the wishes of French President Nicolas Sarkozy, who had pushed for the UK and France to lead the operations. Sarkozy was assuaged by the fact that Nato’s role is limited by the political oversight body.
Coalition warplanes in the meantime continued to fly sorties over Libya, taking their tally to more than 300. More than 162 Tomahawk cruise missiles have been fired on Qaddafi’s forces are diminished from the air, and his air force is grounded under the no fly zone.
Despite the bombardment, government and rebel troops clashed in the Towns of Misrata, Zintan and Yafran, as coalition airpower has not been sufficient in giving the incoherent rebel forces the upper hand.
Qaddafi has vowed to fight on, calling the air assault a “new crusader battle launched by crusader countries on Islam” at a speech on Tuesday.
Also on 22 March, two US pilots were rescued after bailing from their F-15E Strike Eagle jet before it crashed during allied operations in eastern Libya.
The UAE, which was mooted to contribute to the combat operations, has stated that is will now only provide humanitarian aid.