- Associated Press - Thursday, April 21, 2011

LONDON (AP) — British Prime Minister David Cameron insisted Thursday that NATO isn’t edging toward the deployment of ground troops in Libya despite the decision by several European nations to send military staff to assist rebel forces.

Italy, France and Britain are sending experienced combat advisers to help train and organize Libya’s opposition forces as they struggle to loosen Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s grip on power.

Ministers have insisted the officers won’t play any role in offensives against Col. Gadhafi’s troops — and repeatedly have said NATO and its allies won’t overstep boundaries set out in the U.N. resolution authorizing action in Libya.

“We’re not allowed, rightly, to have an invading army or an occupying army,” Mr. Cameron told BBC Scotland radio. “That’s not what we want; that’s not what the Libyans want; that’s not what the world wants.”

Liam Fox, Britain’s defense secretary, appeared to raise the prospect of a greater role for international troops by comparing the conflict with international action in Afghanistan.

Mr. Fox said after talks in Italy on Wednesday that the situation was “not that different from what’s happening in Afghanistan, where we’ve decided that training up security forces so that the Afghans themselves can look after their security is the best way forward.”

Mr. Cameron discussed the role of the military advisers in telephone talks late Wednesday with President Obama, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Qatar Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani.

Some British lawmakers have demanded Parliament be recalled from an Easter vacation to discuss the evolving mission.

“It’s a sensible thing to do, but it’s also a slightly risky political thing to do, because it is the British and French taking a much more direct part it what is now a civil war in Libya,” said Michael Clarke, director of London’s Royal United Services Institute military think tank.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said his country was worried about NATO’s mission evolving into a ground campaign.

“We find the current events in Libya very alarming,” Mr. Lavrov was quoted as saying by the ITAR-Tass news agency. “They spell obvious involvement in the conflict on the ground. This is fraught with unpredictable consequences.”

In Tripoli, Libyan government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim told reporters that foreign troops would be opposed violently if they appeared in major cities.

“We will make it 10 times as bad as Iraq,” Mr. Ibrahim said.

Maj. Gen. John Lorimer, a British military spokesman, said NATO jets had fired on targets in both the western city of Misrata, which is under siege by Col. Gadhafi’s forces, and the capital, Tripoli, during sorties flown on Wednesday.

“Given the grievous situation in Misrata, NATO has focused much of its air effort in this area, attacking numerous regime targets that were threatening the civilian population,” Gen. Lorimer said.

Mr. Cameron also raised the prospect Thursday of a new round of international sanctions, including measures to specifically target Col. Gadhafi’s ability to generate revenue from oil sales.

Diplomats at the United Nations and from the European Union are discussing tentatively how to restrict the flow of money from oil sales to the Tripoli regime.

Separately, in Prague, the Czech Republic’s defense minister, Alexandr Vondra, said his country could not contribute more to NATO’s military mission over Libya — despite the appeal from allies for extra help.

So far, only six of the NATO’s 28 members nations are involved directly in the airstrikes.

Associated Press writers Karin Laub in Tripoli, Jenny Barchfield in Paris, and Don Melvin and Slobodan Lekic in Brussels contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide