Britain to deploy jets for Libya no-fly zone: PM

18th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

Britain will move Tornado and Typhoon fighter jets to bases near Libya in the "coming hours" to stop Moamer Kadhafi's forces attacking civilians, Prime Minister David Cameron said Friday.

After the UN Security Council on Thursday approved "all necessary measures" to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, Cameron said Britain would take part in a joint mission with US and French forces, along with Arab support.

"At Cabinet this morning, we agreed the UK will play its part," Cameron told parliament.

"The defence secretary and I have now instructed the chief of the defence staff to work urgently with our allies to put in place the appropriate military measures to enforce the resolution, including a no-fly zone.

"I can tell the house that we will deploy Tornado and Typhoon as well as air-to-air refuelling and surveillance aircraft.

"Preparations to deploy these have already started and in the coming hours they will move to airbases from where they can take the necessary action."

Britain has an airbase on Cyprus, RAF Akrotiri, which could be used to launch attacks. It also has two frigates, HMS Cumberland and HMS Westminster, already in the Mediterranean.

Cameron said a parliamentary vote on action against Libya would take place next week, and a spokesman for his Downing Street Office said it was expected Monday.

But the prime minister told lawmakers he was "sure the house will accept that the situation requires us to move forward on the basis of the Security Council resolution immediately."

Cameron had joined French President Nicolas Sarkozy in pushing for military action in Libya in the face of initial reluctance from the United States, and their actions bore fruit at the Security Council on Thursday.

A French government spokesman said strikes against Libya would come "rapidly... within a few hours" of the vote, but Cameron did specify the timing of possible action.

With the shadow of Britain's involvement in the 2003 invasion of Iraq hanging over the Libya decision, Cameron said three key criteria had been met for action against Kadhafi -- demonstrable need, regional support and a clear legal basis.

But he reiterated that the UN resolution excluded an occupation force in Libya.

Britain, France, the United States, Norway, Qatar and Spain are among the countries that have said they would help to enforce the no-fly zone while Belgium said it was ready to take part under a NATO umbrella.

China, Germany, Poland, Australia and Russia have indicated they will not.

Cameron said he would attend a summit on Libya in Paris on Saturday involving the European Union, the African Union and the Arab League, as mooted by President Nicolas Sarkozy, who currently heads the G8 and G20.

Britain's Tornado strike aircraft are currently based at RAF Lossiemouth in Scotland and RAF Marham in Norfolk, eastern England. Its Typhoons are based at RAF Leuchars in Scotland and RAF Coningsby in Lincolnshire, central England.

© 2011 AFP

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