MoD: Gaddafi's power 'diminishing daily'

Libyan no-fly zone now under Nato command
Libyan no-fly zone now under Nato command

By Alex Stevenson

Coalition forces are gradually eroding Muammar Gaddafi's ability to continue the struggle for Libya, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has suggested.

Major-General John Lorimer told journalists that Britain, together with its allies led by the US and France, had already saved "many innocent lives" and that more would be saved in the future.

British Tornado GR4 aircraft launched guided missiles against Libyan armoured vehicles threatening the civilian population of Adjabiya last night. There have now been a total of 70 British sorties into Libyan airspace, David Cameron said in Brussels.

"We have not been able to stop all Colonel Gaddafi's attacks... but every day he continues to defy UN security council resolution 1973 his forces suffer the consequences," Maj-Gen Lorimer said.

"They are losing aircraft, tanks and guns that they cannot replace. His ability to use these weapons against his own people is diminished daily."

Foreign secretary William Hague reversed the earlier understanding that Nato would not assume full command for all coalition military operations in the skies over Libya.

Tensions within the international community over whether or not the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation would step in to assume broader control of military operations against Muammar Gaddafi had led to a dual-control deal.

That now appears short-lived as this afternoon the foreign secretary indicated diplomatic difficulties were being overcome, however.

Nato secretary-general Anders Fogh Rasmussen had made clear yesterday that the alliance would only assume command and control over the no-fly zone, leaving the targeting of ground-based military targets to the wider international community.

"The mandate doesn't go beyond that," Mr Rasmussen had told reporters. "We can act in self-defence, but what we will do is enforce the no-fly zone and ensure that we protect the civilian population that way."

Mr Hague rejected claims that UN states were divided on how to implement the resolution, however.

The wider enforcement of UN security council resolution 1973 - which authorises "all means necessary" for protecting the civilian population of Libya - is now expected to be co-opted into Nato command shortly.

"Nato's decision to assume command and control of the no fly zone, in addition to the arms embargo already being enforced, is a significant step forward and will ensure that the alliance's tried and tested machinery is used to best effect," a Downing Street spokesman said last night.

The deal came after Paris argued that Arab support for the no-fly zone would be eroded if Nato had full command, France 24 reported.

The United Arab Emirates' decision to offer 12 fast jets, following a contribution from Qatar, will quell concerns about regional backing.

"We have come a long way in a short time. A week ago, hundreds of thousands of civilians in Benghazi were under a direct and imminent military threat from Gaddafi's attacks," Mr Cameron said in a press conference in Brussels.

"He said he would show no mercy, but we made sure there was no entry."

Britain will host an international conference on Libya next Tuesday. The prime minister said it would "review progress and plan for the future", as reports of further fighting around Adjabiya emerged from north Africa.


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