France to step air stikes in Libya: PM

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France will step up its air strikes in Libya to protect civilians from Moamer Kadhafi's forces, visiting French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said here Tuesday, while urging a political solution to the conflict.

Highlighting the violent shelling of several Libyan cities by pro-Kadhafi forces, he told a press conference: "We will therefore intensify our military effort from our air force to prevent Kadhafi forces from pursuing their attacks on civilian populations."

"But at the same time, we will need to find a political solution, that is conditions for a dialogue so that the Libyan crisis can be resolved," he added.

Fillon raised the Libya issue during a luncheon with UN chief Ban Ki-moon here, where the two men are attending a conference on the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.

"This crisis will not be resolved by the military action of the coalition," the French premier said.

"This is why we have launched a whole series of contacts within the franework of the Contact Group (on Libya) to ensure that all people of good will, on both sides, can find a framework in which to negotiate."

He also again ruled out any deployment of French ground troops in Libya, recalling that his country was intervening there as part of an international coalition acting under a United Nations mandate "which we are respecting to the letter."

© 2011 AFP

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