Wednesday, 23 March 2011
Libya action: Arab support very strong, Cameron says
Arab support for the military operation over Libya is "very strong", Prime Minister David Cameron has said.
He told the House of Commons Kuwait and Jordan would take part, and that Qatar already had planes in action.
Mr Cameron was speaking as British forces resumed patrols in the skies over Libya, with Tornado and Typhoon jets seen taking off from their bases.
The foreign secretary has announced that the UK will host an international conference on Libya next week.'Saving lives'
The RAF's commander of the air operation, Air Vice Marshal Greg Bagwell, said on Wednesday that the Libyan air force "no longer exists as a fighting force", and the allies could operate "with near impunity".
Three RAF Typhoons and two RAF Tornados took off from Gioia del Colle airbase in southern Italy on Wednesday morning.
AVM Greg Bagwell confirmed that no British planes had come under fire.
He said the Tornados have not had to open fire since the first night of the assault against forces loyal to Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi.
At Prime Minister's Questions, Mr Cameron said there had not been as much Arab involvement "as perhaps would have been welcomed by everybody in this House" because action had to be taken quickly on Saturday.
He added: "Clear support is there from the secretary general [of the Arab League]... and I believe support in the Arab world, not just among Arab leaders, but also amongst Arab people, for saving lives in Libya is very strong."
Mr Cameron told MPs that 11 nations were contributing more than 150 aircraft.
He confirmed that Qatari Mirage jets had been taking part in the operation, and said there would be "logistic help" from countries like Kuwait and Jordan.
The prime minister said the coalition operation over Libya had had a "good effect" in protecting civilians, but that it was still early days.
Labour leader Ed Miliband asked Mr Cameron to "clarify" the government's position on whether Col Gaddafi himself should be targeted.
No 10 had indicated such a move could be legal under certain circumstances, but the Chief of the Defence Staff, Gen Sir David Richards, said it was "not allowed under the UN resolution".
Mr Cameron told Mr Miliband: "All our targets must be selected to be absolutely in line with UN Security Council resolution 1973. That allows us to take all necessary measures to enforce a no-fly zone.
"But I don't propose to give a running commentary on targets, or frankly to say anything beyond that."'Humanitarian needs'
Foreign Secretary William Hague announced later that the summit in London on Tuesday would allow the UK and its allies to "take stock" of the implementation of the resolution so far.
He said "a wide and inclusive range of countries" would be invited, "particularly from the region".
"We will consider the humanitarian needs of the Libyan people and identify ways to support the people of Libya in their aspirations for a better future," he added.
Mr Hague also said he had spoken by telephone on Tuesday to Mahmoud Jabril, special envoy for the rebels' Transitional National Council, and had discussed with him the progress of the no-fly zone and the protection of civilians during the military action.
As the coalition operation enters its fifth day, witnesses in the rebel-held city of Misrata say pro-Gaddafi snipers have been firing on a hospital, killing at least one person.
Mr Cameron said the news from Misrata was "of great concern".
There are reports that the coalition has launched new air strikes near the city.