Mar 26, 2011

Britain admits it has no idea how long Libya mission will last

By Damien McElroy in Tripoli

Wednesday March 23 2011

Britain's coalition government does not know how long it will be engaged in Libya, it was admitted yesterday, as debate intensified over the likely outcome, cost and leadership of the mission.

Nick Harvey, the British armed forces minister, was asked how long Britain would be involved in the military operation in north Africa.

He replied: "How long is a piece of string? We don't know how long this is going to go on for."

His admission, three days into the intervention, came as governments faced mounting pressure to set out the limits of their countries' involvement and explain their eventual exit strategy.

Adding to the sense of uncertainty, France and Britain remained at odds over a plan for NATO to take over command of military operations when the US winds down its involvement, a transition expected in days.

In other developments, US troops entered Libya briefly to rescue the pilot of a US fighter that crashed near the rebel stronghold of Benghazi. In a potential propaganda disaster, the rescuers opened fire on Libyans who were trying to help the pilot, injuring six.

The British Ministry of Defence said three nights of air strikes were having a "very real effect" on Muammar Gaddafi's regime and a no-fly zone was being maintained. But the head of US forces said loyalist forces were continuing to attack rebels and civilians, especially in and around the city of Misurata. Anti-aircraft fire was heard again over Tripoli last night.

Meanwhile, Qatar made the first military contribution by an Arab nation to the UN campaign. Two Qatari fighter jets and a transport plane arrived in Crete to help police the no-fly zone. (? Daily Telegraph, London)

- Damien McElroy in Tripoli

Irish Independent

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Hi, my name is kim. I'm studying at the University of Amsterdam, and created a blog about the situation in the Middle East. I am currently in Egypt for my studdies. Happy reading!

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