Cyprus opposes British bases role in Libya attack

20th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Cyprus President Demetris Christofias said Sunday he opposed an RAF air base on the island being part of the UN-backed intervention in Libya but Britain denied it would launch strikes from there.

"Unfortunately the Bases are sovereign and can be used with just a simple warning (to the Cyprus government) on behalf of Britain," Christofias told reporters.

"We gave a message to Britain that we do not wish the bases to be used, because we are against it," he added.

He also said that there was no united voice within the EU following the extraordinary summit on Saturday

"The EU is not unanimous... we could not reach a common position."

Christofias said Cyprus opposed in principle the British bases being used for military strikes in the region including the ones against Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi.

"It's another matter whether democracy should prevail in Libya and other Arab countries. Certainly we have no objection to this, we are for it, but this is a matter for the people, it is their sovereign right."

A statement issued by British Forces Cyprus (BFC) said the Akrotiri base was only being used in a support role in the operations over Libya.

It said the base -- one of the biggest of its kind outside Britain -- is hosting VC-10 flying tankers and E3D and Sentinel early warning and surveillance aircraft.

"These aircraft will provide a surveillance and refuelling capability similar to that previously used to support humanitarian operations to evacuate British citizens and foreign nationals from Libya," BFC said.

It said regional co-ordination of British "air assets" will be managed from Akrotiri for as long as it is tasked to do so.

"RAF Akrotiri is not being used to launch offensive strikes on Libya, nor is it hosting air assets from any other nation for this operation. There are no plans to deploy Typhoon or Tornado aircraft at RAF Akrotiri."

BFC also said the Cyprus government would be kept informed of developments.

Christofias said he hoped there would be no outside request for Cyprus to offer its services in the operation against Kadhafi's regime, with which Nicosia had good relations in the past and has been reluctant to criticise openly.

Britain has retained two sovereign military bases on Cyprus since the island gained independence from British rule in 1960. There are some 9,000 service personnel and their families stationed at Akrotiri in the southwest of the island and Dhekelia in the southeast.

© 2011 AFP

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