By Ray Fleming

“WHO'S in charge?” is a question often thrown casually at any situation that seems to lack a sensible structure to carry out its appointed task. Yet in the past week it has seemed to be the key question to ask about the multi-national operations in Libya. It has not even been clear whether Britain's prime minister and Chief of Defence Staff are in agreement about the precise objective of the attacks on Libya.

The UN authorised operations were rushed into action under tripartite French, UK and US leadership and apparently have worked. But the less clearcut task of preventing Gaddafi's forces from oppressing Libyans opposed to him and of bringing the international involvement to an agreed conclusion will need a more considered and longer term approach. The initial ad hoc cooperation of Britain, France and US lacks the infrastructure to ensure the necessary coordination and it is for this reason that NATO, with its standing military and political institutions, has come into the picture -- initially, as agreed yesterday, to oversee the no-fly zone but also, probably following a meeting in London early next week, to assume total responsibility for the Libyan operations. It may also be necessary to set up special consultative machinery for those countries participating but not members of NATO. None of this has been easy but a more unified and purposeful solution seems to have been found.