Sarkozy at French airbase over Libya crisis

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy arrived Tuesday at an airbase on the Mediterranean island of Corsica serving as a staging area for air strikes over Libya, the defence ministry said.

Accompanied by Defense Minister Gerard Longuet, Sarkozy was to be briefed on the Libyan operation, according to a defence ministry official.

French military aircraft have carried out several dozen sorties since the launch Saturday of an international operation to enforce a UN resolution to protect Libyan civilians and set up a "no-fly" zone.

On the east coast of the French island, the Solenzara base was built in 1952 by NATO, and is normally used as a training station for French fighter pilots.

France has also mobilised combat jets aboard the Charles de Gaulle aircraft carrier, and has said they would be ready to fly sorties over Libya from Tuesday.

The carrier, the French Navy's flagship, set off from the southern naval port of Toulon Sunday with 2,000 sailors and about 15 jets aboard.

France, which has about 100 warplanes -- mainly Rafale and Mirage 2000 jets -- was the first country to overfly the rebel bastion of Benghazi on Saturday, mobilising 20 warplanes for air strikes after the go-ahead for the no-fly zone.

© 2011 AFP

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