Libya makes Britain rethink defence cuts: report

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British Prime Minister David Cameron is rethinking the government's programme of deep defence cuts in the light of the armed forces' involvement in the Libya conflict, a report said Friday.

Cameron is "actively engaged" in a reassessment of Britain's military capabilities, the Daily Telegraph reported, citing government sources.

The report said that plans to reduce the number of Royal Air Force Tornado fighter jets and scrap surveillance planes may be reversed. Both are playing a key role in patrolling the no-fly zone over Libya.

As part of a programme of wider public spending cuts, Cameron's government is trying to fill a £38 billion (43 billion euro, $62 billion) hole in the defence budget it inherited from the previous Labour government.

Among other measures in the Strategic Defence and Security Review (SDSR), Britain's armed forces will be reduced by 17,000 personnel by 2015 and an aircraft carrier and the Harrier jets that fly from it will be scrapped.

A Ministry of Defence spokeswoman denied claims in the reports that the government was performing a "climbdown" on some of the cuts.

She said "significant inroads" had been made into the funding black hole by putting the defence cuts into action and the government would continue to implement them.

"The government sought to tackle a £38 billion defence shortfall and an equipment programme that was overcommitted and unsustainable after 13 years without a Strategic Defence Review," the spokewoman said.

"Implementing difficult SDSR decisions has made significant inroads into the £38 billion blackhole."

© 2011 AFP

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