Nato capabilities will be exhausted within 90 days in Libya

Nato's European members should assume responsibility and boost their defence budgets if they want to remain reliable partners, the new US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta said in Baghdad on Monday.

Panetta, who took office on July 1, was following on the heels of his predecessor, Robert Gates, who last month virulently criticised Nato's European members for their lack of investment in defence.

"I'm a believer in partnerships. But if you talk about partnerships, damn, you have got to be partners," Panetta said in remarks before US troops in Baghdad.

"They've got to assume their responsibility in the world as well," he said about Nato's European members, adding their commitment to Libya was not enough.

"The reality in Libya is that within the next 90 days a lot of these other countries could be exhausted in terms of their capabilities, so the US is going to be looked at to help fill the gap," Panetta said.

Among the European countries involved in Libya, Norway has announced it will withdraw its six F-16 fighters on August 1, and Italy is pulling out its Garibaldi aircraft carrier, for a saving of 80 million euros.

Panetta said that Nato's European members must "make efforts to develop their defence capability; they're gonna have to invest in that kind of partnership as well.

"We can't be the ones that carry the financial burden in all of these situations," Panetta said.

Washington bears 75 per cent of Nato's defence budget. Of the 28 Nato countries, only the United States, France, Britain, Greece and Albania meet the Nato threshold of two percent of GDP spent on defence.

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