Snap up Libya contracts, firms told
British firms have been urged by Defence Secretary Philip Hammond to head to Libya to secure contracts for its reconstruction.
With the military campaign all but over after the death of Muammar Gaddafi and the defeat of what appears to have been the last pockets of resistance, Mr Hammond said sales directors should be "packing their suitcases" for Libya.
His comments came as Nato prepared to wind down air and sea operations after seven months of air strikes to protect the civilian population from Gaddafi's forces.
The body of the ousted dictator, who was captured and killed on Thursday by forces loyal to the revolutionary government, was being kept in a meat store in Misrata while the National Transitional Council (NTC) decided what to do with it.
The United Nations called for an investigation into Gaddafi's death amid concerns that he was executed shortly after being captured in his home town of Sirte.
Mr Hammond said the Nato mission - in which British forces have flown 3,010 sorties since March - was now "pretty much complete", although he cautioned that there could be "some little pocket (of resistance) somewhere".
Trade minister Lord Green has met British businesses to discuss potential opportunities in Libya in the wake of the conflict. There are expectations that the NTC will look favourably on UK firms after Britain's strong military commitment in support of the anti-Gaddafi rebels.
Mr Hammond said: "Of course I would expect British companies to be, even today, British sales directors, practically packing their suitcases and looking to get out to Libya and take part in the reconstruction of that country as soon as they can."
The Defence Secretary said the mission, despite initial misgivings in some quarters when Prime Minister David Cameron committed Britain to it, had been "hugely successful".
"It has given the Libyans the space to liberate their country from a 40-year tyranny. I think we should be enormously proud of what Nato has achieved," he said.