France sends combat choppers to Libya: report

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France is dispatching attack helicopters to take part in its operations against Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi's military assets, French daily Le Figaro reported Monday.

The military said a French aircraft carrier had set off from a port in the Mediterranean but did not confirm the report that it was carrying helicopters to Libya, where French warplanes have been striking Kadhafi's sites.

"The BPC Tonnerre cast off on May 17 from Toulon," a southern French port home to a major naval base, top military spokesman Thierry Burkard told AFP.

"For the moment it is not engaged in operations in Libya," he added.

The BPC is capable of carrying 16 big 12-tonne helicopters, 750 troops and scores of armoured vehicles for launching amphibious attacks.

Le Figaro said the hi-tech aircraft carrier had left Toulon with 12 helicopters aboard intended for operations in Libya, where France and other western powers are backing rebels in their battle against Kadhafi.

The use of attack helicopters would allow more precise strikes on targets in Libya that warplanes are unable to reach for fear of civilian casualties.

Burkhard said that the possible use of attack helicopters would not be in breach of the UN resolution under which international forces, now under NATO command, launched their intervention in Libya in March.

"All French resources... can be engaged at any moment in the Libyan crisis," he said.

© 2011 AFP

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