Washington: The US expects to hand over the leadership of the military operations against Libyan regime to a coalition, which would be headed either by the French, the British or NATO ‘in a matter of days’, American Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Monday.

"I think that there are a couple of possibilities: one is British and French leadership, another is the use of the NATO machinery and I think we just have to work out the command and control that is most accommodating to all of the members of the coalition," Gates told   reporters travelling with him to Russia.

Claiming a "strong and successful" start of the operation 'Operation Odyssey Dawn' in Libya, he said several Arab countries are planning to join the military coalition.

He conceded that Arab nations are unwilling to work under the command and control structure of NATO forces, so this would be kept in mind while deciding the leadership of the coalition.

"I think that there is sensitivity on the part of the Arab League to being seen to be operating under a NATO umbrella, and so the question is if there is a way we can work
out NATO's command and control machinery without it being a NATO mission and without a NATO flag and so on," Gates said.

Reiterating that there would be no US boots on the ground in Libya, Gates said it is pretty clear that the US agreed to use its unique capabilities and the breadth of those capabilities at the frontend of this process, and then it expects "in a matter of days" to be able to turn over the primary responsibility to others.

US President Barack Obama, he said, felt strongly about limiting the scale of US military involvement in this operation.

"He's more aware than almost anybody of the stress on our military. But these naval and air assets that we can bring to bear have clearly played an important role here at the frontend and we will continue to play a role, but we will be one of a number of partners beginning, I hope, in a few days," he said.

Gates said all countries probably would like to see Libya remain a unified state.

US-led Western forces have unleashed over 100 Tomahawk cruise missiles on military targets in Tripoli and along the Mediterranean coast in last two days.

(Agencies)