Gates: Gadhafi placing bodies at sites of coalition attacks

Washington (CNN) -- Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi is placing bodies of people his regime has killed at the sites of some missile strikes by the U.S.-led coalition, according to intelligence reports cited by U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

In an interview to be broadcast Sunday on the CBS program "Face the Nation," Gates said he was unaware of coalition attacks causing civilian casualties.

"The truth of the matter is we have trouble coming up with proof of any civilian casualties that we have been responsible for," Gates said in the interview conducted Saturday. "But we do have a lot of intelligence reporting about Gadhafi taking the bodies of the people he's killed and putting them at the sites where we've attacked."

Asked how often it has happened, Gates replied: "We have a number of reports of that."

An excerpt of the interview was posted on the CBS News website.

A senior defense official told CNN on Sunday that the U.S. military has information gleaned from intelligence sources that Gadhafi has tasked his aides to search morgues and hospitals for dead bodies to be posed as civilian casualties.

NATO military planners are drafting rules of engagement for coalition forces to follow once the alliance takes over the Libyan mission. A key question is how robust the NATO-led forces will be in attacking Libyan ground forces to protect civilians

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Gadhafi has claimed that coalition missile attacks have killed civilians, and some NATO members and Arab nations responded with concern that the Libyan military mission might exceed the intent of the U.N. Security Council resolution that authorized it.

In the CBS interview, Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the military mission was proceeding well so far. Asked if there was a problem between the military mission's limited goal of civilian protection and President Barack Obama's stated policy objective of ousting Gadhafi, both said no.

"You don't, in a military campaign, set as a mission or a goal something you are not sure you can achieve," Gates said. "And as we've learned over the past number of years, regime change is very complicated and can be very expensive and can take a long time. So I think the key here was establishing a military mission that was achievable, was achievable in a limited period of time and could be sustained."

Clinton noted how former Serbian Slobodan Milosevic remained in power despite mounting internal and external pressure for his ouster that ended with Milosevic dying while on trial in the international war crimes court. She likened that situation to Gadhafi today.

"It took a while for Milosevic to leave, but you could see his days were numbered even though he wasn't yet out of office," Clinton said.

Gates joked he "wouldn't be hanging any new pictures" if he were Gadhafi, then noted that there are several possible scenarios for the Libyan leader's ouster.

"His military can turn, we could see elements of his military turning, deciding this is a no-win proposition, the families splitting, I mean any number of possibilities are out there, particularly as long as the international pressure continues, and those around him see no .

http://www.cnn.com/2011/POLITICS/03/27/us.libya/index.html?hpt=T1

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