Brussels, Belgium (CNN) -- On NATO's first day of command in Libya on Thursday, the alliance reaffirmed its commitment to enforcing the arms embargo and not providing weapons to the rebels.
"The Alliance has the assets in place to conduct its tasks under Operation Unified Protector -- the arms embargo, no-fly zone and actions to protect civilians and civilian centers. In line with the mandate of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1973, NATO's focus is on protecting civilians and civilian-populated areas against the threat of attack, " NATO said in a statement, adding that the "operational tempo" of the mission had not changed because of the handover.
NATO officials say the handover has been smooth and seamless.
On his first day as commander of the Libyan mission, Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard fielded questions on the possibility that civilians had been hurt as a result of NATO operations. A Vatican envoy reported that as many as 40 civilians had been killed.
"It is a news report and I appreciate the source of this report, but it is worth noting that I take every one of those issues seriously," said Bouchard from the mission's operational command in Naples, Italy.
"We are very careful in the prosecution of any of the possible targets that we have. We have very strict rules of engagement provided to us and we are operating within the legal mandate of our United Nations mandate," he added.
Russian diplomatic officials, meanwhile, warned against a "creative" interpretation of the U.N. resolution and hinted it was beginning to regret its decision to abstain during the U.N. vote. Russia, as one of the Security Council's permanent members, has veto power.
But NATO officials insist they are employing the strictest interpretation of the resolution. "The alliance has nothing to hide -- not to Russia and not to you," Adm. Giampaolo Di Paola, chairman of NATO's Military Committee, told a press briefing at NATO headquarters.