British lawmakers approve Libya military action

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British lawmakers on Monday overwhelmingly supported the country's involvement in the ongoing military operation to enforce a UN-sanctioned no-fly zone over Libya.

After Britain's first official debate over its involvement in the operation, members of the House of Commons, the country's lower house of parliament, voted 557 to 13 in favour of the action which began Saturday.

Prime Minister David Cameron said earlier Monday there was no legal authority for regime change in Libya despite suggestions by ministers that air strikes could target leader Moamer Kadhafi.

Cameron had the support of his Conservative party and their Liberal Democrat coalition partners for military action, as well as the opposition Labour party.

After Kadhafi's complex in Tripoli was hit overnight in raids by Western forces, Cameron said the UN Security Council resolution was limited to include the enforcement of a ceasefire and no-fly zones to protect civilians.

Responding to criticism that there was no vote before the operation started, Foreign Secretary William Hague said if the UN resolution had been passed any later "it would have been too late".

"Once that resolution was passed, we had to move with all possible speed," he added. "If we had not got involved in this resolution and this action, then such a resolution and such action would probably not have happened at all."

The foreign minister promised there was "nothing gleeful or gung-ho" about the operation or the parliamentary debate and said the House would be consulted if there was a "fundamental change in the nature of the mission".

Barry Gardiner, a lawmaker from the opposition Labour party, questioned Britain's involvement in the north African nation.

"Many people in the UK are asking 'Why does Britain always have to get involved?'" he asked.

"North Africa is not on our doorstep. It's not our direct sphere of influence. Libya poses no direct threat to the UK," he added.

© 2011 AFP

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