Washington: NATO may not end its mission in Libya as early as planned, US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta has said. NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen had said the alliance was planning to wind down its operation in Libya by Oct 31.

The preliminary decision was approved during a NATO council meeting on Friday, with the formal statement expected to be made this week.

But Panetta told journalists on Tuesday during his visit to Japan that Libya's ruling National Transitional Council (NTC) wanted NATO to extend its mission, RIA Novosti reported citing a news channel.

"I noticed today that there were comments from some of the Libya leadership asking that NATO continue its mission during this interim as they are trying to establish some of their governance," the channel quoted him as saying.

The decision is up to NATO, he said, adding that the US was looking at its long-term relations with Libya's military.

(Agencies)