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Allies Strain to Mend Split

The pace of U.S. and allied airstrikes in Libya should slow in the next few days, Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Tuesday. Nathan Hodge has details from Washington. Plus, Sam Dagher in Tripoli on how people there are reacting to the air strikes.

A coalition of military powers pounded the Gadhafi government's military installations for a fourth day and solidified its control over Libya's skies—even as it continued to struggle to resolve an internal conflict over how to lead the campaign.

President Barack Obama called French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron to hash out the dispute over how to organize international enforcement of the no-fly zone, as he and top U.S. officials called on other leaders to contribute forces to the cause.

On Edge in Libya

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Coalition members haven't been able to agree on whether the North Atlantic Treaty Organization should take charge of the mission. France, seen by some diplomats as trying to mend fences with Arab neighbors while leading the fight to protect Libyan rebels against the Tripoli regime, has proposed a command structure with NATO in a subsidiary role.

Washington has made clear it is anxious not to be running another military intervention in the Middle East. The Obama administration has indicated it wants to hand over command, preferably to NATO, in coming days—an objective backed by Britain, Italy, Norway and others. Speaking in San Salvador, the capital of El Salvador, on Tuesday just before ending his Latin American trip, Mr. Obama said the U.S. could cede control soon.

"I have absolutely no doubt that we will be able to transfer control of this operation to an international coalition,'' he said, adding the campaign will likely continue as long as Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is in power.

Another looming question is how the U.S. and its partners would proceed in case of a long military standoff in which the allies succeed in protecting civilians and rebel forces, but Col. Gadhafi remains in power. The allied nations have each offered different interpretations of the campaign's end goals.

Coalition airstrikes continued Tuesday, although at a diminished pace from the opening blitz of the operation. Navy Adm. Samuel Locklear, the head of a U.S. task force based in the Mediterranean, said weekend airstrikes had halted loyalist forces outside the opposition stronghold of Benghazi.

A U.S. warplane crashes in Libya overnight. The pilot and crew members ejected safely. WSJ's Stephen Fidler reports.

Coalition forces are going to "great lengths" to avoid civilian casualties as they carry out a series of air strikes against Gadhafi's army in Libya, U.S. Secretary of State Robert Gates said Tuesday on a visit to Russia.

But Col. Gadhafi's forces remained on the offensive in the cities of Ajdabiya and Misrata. In Misrata, a close-in siege made it difficult for airstrikes to interfere. A doctor with the rebel leadership there said the situation was going from "worse to worst," with power, water and food supplies cut off. Four members of one family were killed by regime snipers on rooftops, he said.

Government troops "have to pull back" from those cities, Adm. Locklear warned. If they "stop all attacks against citizens and withdraw from the places that we've told him to withdraw, establish water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas and allow humanitarian assistance, then the fighting would stop," he said. "Our job would be over."

Col. Gadhafi made a defiant appearance late Tuesday in front of a clutch of diehard supporters from impoverished Tripoli neighborhoods at his headquarters in Bab Azizya, two days after allied forces struck a building there, which caused significant material damage but no casualties, Libyan officials said.

Late Monday night, the crew of a U.S. Air Force F-15E was forced to eject over eastern Libya after their aircraft experienced a mechanical failure. The pilot was rescued by Marines who flew in from a ship in the Mediterranean, while a second crew member was rescued by Libyan "opposition forces," according to a military briefing slide. Military officials said the second crew member was in U.S. hands on Tuesday. During the rescue operation, U.S. jets dropped two 500-pound bombs in what a senior Marine officer described as a "precaution" to protect the downed crew. There was no immediate word about whether the bombs injured anyone on the ground.

NATO did agree Tuesday to enforce an arms embargo, but not on its role in the no-fly zone. So far, the Libya operations have been led by U.S. Adm. Locklear, coordinating with military commanders of France, Britain and the other armed forces involved.

France, which recently rejoined NATO's military command structure after more than 30 years, insisted it doesn't want to give the organization a central command-and-control role. French officials have said Arab countries are against NATO involvement, and that the current command structure is working fine.

Other diplomats said the Arab League doesn't object to NATO's role. They are also concerned that the operation is taking big risks already by not having a unified command. Some officials described it as being barely coordinated on Saturday when French jets launched attacks in Libya hours ahead of allies.

In Paris on Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppé proposed a new political steering committee to oversee military operations over Libya. The new body would include foreign ministers of participating states, such as Britain, France and the U.S., as well as the Arab League.

"For us, this operation is carried out by a coalition," Mr. Juppé told the French National Assembly, the lower house of the country's parliament. "So it's not a NATO operation."

Turkey, another NATO member, has expressed strong reservations about the no-fly zone. But several diplomats said they expected Ankara would eventually agree to NATO participation, subject to conditions.

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On the Ground in Libya

Zohra Bensemra/Reuters

Libyan army soldiers stood on a building, destroyed in what the government said was a western missile attack, inside Bab Al-Aziziyah, Col. Gadhafi's heavily fortified Tripoli compound Monday.

Battle for Benghazi

Patrick Baz/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

A senior U.S. official said the Obama administration was still cobbling together a command structure for the Libya operations. The official said the U.S. expects NATO to be central, but also believes Muslim countriessuch as Turkey and Qatar will play a larger part. "NATO obviously has a key role here," said the official. "But that's part of a broader effort and that's not to say it's NATO only."

The U.S. has sought participation by Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, which have among the region's most modern militaries, largely equipped with U.S.-made equipment. So far, though, both Arab countries have declined to participate militarily, despite the support that their own regional bloc, the Gulf Cooperation Council, has expressed for the intervention. Only Qatar among the six GCC nations is sending jets.

The U.A.E., which had led Arab nations' calls for allied military action, surprised coalition members by holding back from deploying its own aircraft. The former commander of its airforce said Tuesday that was because of dissatisfaction with U.S. and European complaints about regime violence against protesters in its ally Bahrain.

The U.S. official said discussions with Saudi Arabia and U.A.E. continued. Vice President Joe Biden spoke Tuesday with Emirati Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayid al Nahyan. "I don't think we've seen the final answer on the exact role" of these countries, the official said.

South Africa and China criticized the allied airstrikes over Libyan claims of civlian casualties, which U.S. officials denied. U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said the pace of airstrikes should decline in the next few days and cautioned against believing what he called Col. Gadhafi's "outright lies."

Allied attacks Monday night hit shipyards in Tripoli and al-Khums, about 80 miles east of the capital, that were being used to store surface-to-surface missiles and missile launchers and carriers, according to Libyan military officers.

The strikes left hangar facilities smoldering, with white smoke rising above what looked to be a working plant. Armed militia members loyal to Col. Gadhafi shooed away cars filled with residents who stopped Tuesday to gape at the destruction caused by the bombs.

Two other hangars at the Tripoli shipyard, used for repairing electrical and mechanical equipment and parts for the Libyan fleet, were hit in the same strikes, causing significant damage and leaving behind two deep craters in the middle of the workshops.

"What does this have to do with protecting civilians?" said an angry Libyan government official at the scene.

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