Spain withdraws F-18 planes from NATO Libya mission

Judy MacInnes

MADRID (Reuters) - Spain will withdraw the four F-18 aircraft deployed as part of its contribution to the NATO operation over Libya now that the governing National Transitional Council (NTC) controls most of the country, Defence Minister Carme Chacon said Wednesday.

Spain sent the four fighter jets to the Italian air base of Decimomannu on the island of Sardinia in March.

The F-18 aircraft will return to Spain Saturday but will be ready to leave again should there be a need for them to rejoin the NATO effort, Chacon said in a videoconference with troops serving abroad to mark Spain's National Day.

Two refuelling planes, a frigate and a sea patrol plane will remain as part of Spain's contribution, she said.

The decision to withdraw the F-18 planes has been agreed with the leaders of the NATO mission in Libya, and is based on the fact that airports which were closed there are now operational and the number of civilian flights are increasing, Chacon said.

(Reporting By Judy MacInnes)