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UK Libya role hailed despite cuts

The UK's armed forces played a significant role in Libya despite cuts in defence spending, David Cameron said.

The Prime Minister insisted the UK has been "punching at our weight or even above our weight" in the conflict, with the RAF carrying out around a fifth of all strike sorties against Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

He dismissed claims that the US sees the UK as a "weak ally" as a result of the slashed defence budget.

Mr Cameron told BBC Radio 4 that the UK had played a major role even though it no longer had an aircraft carrier as a result of decisions in the Strategic Defence and Security Review.

He said: "If you look at the number of strike sorties, there were less than 8,000, somewhere just less than 8,000.

"Britain performed 1,600 of those, so around a fifth of strike sorties and I think that is punching, as it were, at our weight or even above our weight."

France stationed a carrier off the Libyan coast, but Mr Cameron said the RAF had played a leading role from a base in Italy.

The Prime Minister said: "Because we have basing ability all over the Mediterranean I don't think we did suffer from not having an aircraft carrier."

Mr Cameron added: "You have to make difficult decisions in defence reviews, but I think the decision we made to keep Tornado rather than Harrier was the right decision because Tornado is the more capable aircraft."

He said in future the UK would have one of the best carriers in the world.

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