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Libyan mission coalition 'strong'

Downing Street has insisted that international forces will continue to intensify military pressure on Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, despite a call from Italy for a ceasefire.

Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini has called for the "immediate suspension" of hostilities in Libya to allow humanitarian supplies to reach areas around the rebel-held city of Misrata and Gaddafi's capital Tripoli.

Mr Frattini told a parliamentary commission in Rome that "the humanitarian end of military operations is essential to allow for immediate aid".

His comments appeared to indicate cracks within the Nato-led coalition, of which Italy is part, which has conducted air strikes since March in support of a United Nations Security Council resolution to protect Libyan civilians.

But Prime Minister David Cameron's official spokesman told reporters that Italy had formally reaffirmed its commitment to the mission as recently as Monday, when EU foreign ministers met in Luxembourg.

"The EU Foreign Affairs Council, which includes Italy, signed up to a statement which said 'The EU is unwavering in its commitment to protecting Libyan civilians, including through the intensification of pressure on the Libyan regime'," said Mr Cameron's spokesman.

"We have got a strong and broad coalition that is fully committed to carrying out the mission set out by UN Security Council Resolution 1973.

"We are increasing pressure on the Libyan regime and we believe that that pressure has proved effective... Our view is that we need to continue with intensifying pressure on the regime.

"That pressure is coming through the military campaign, but also political and economic pressure. There is still a very broad and strong coalition in favour of that action."

Meanwhile, the PM also insisted that British forces can maintain the current level of operations in Libya despite concerns raised by senior military figures. He was challenged on the issue by Labour leader Ed Miliband, who called for the Strategic Defence and Security Review to be re-examined.

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