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Cameron hits back over Libya row

David Cameron has laid bare his frustration with forces chiefs questioning the sustainability of Britain's military commitments, telling them: "You do the fighting and I'll do the talking."

The Prime Minister was forced to insist that the mission in Libya can be maintained for as long as necessary after the concerns of the RAF's second-in-command were leaked.

Air Chief Marshal Sir Simon Bryant said operations in Afghanistan and Libya were together placing a "huge" demand on resources.

In a briefing paper for politicians, he said the RAF's ability to respond to future emergencies will be curtailed if the mission in Libya continues beyond the summer.

Last week head of the Royal Navy Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope questioned the sustainability of current military operations, saying the Government would have to make "challenging decisions" if the Libya mission lasted more than six months.

Asked about the latest intervention, Mr Cameron told a Downing Street press conference: "There are moments when I wake up, read the newspapers and think: Well look, you do the fighting and I'll do the talking."

Mr Cameron insisted that Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir David Richards and Admiral Stanhope, who was hauled into Number 10 for his comments last week, are "absolutely clear that we are able to keep up this mission for as long as is necessary".

The Prime Minister said: "Time is on our side and we will keep going with this; and the pressure is turning up all the time. I think you can see that with the desertions from Gaddafi's regime, from the pressure he is under in the west of the country where pockets of resistance are growing, and growing in strength and challenging his authority.

"So I'm absolutely confident that we can keep this pressure up. We can maintain this mission for as long as necessary. Our allies are equally staunch, and we are growing in strength in terms of the transitional national council in Benghazi. We will continue working with them to bring this to a happy conclusion. I'm very content of the support I'm getting from Britain's military; they are performing magnificently."

He insisted that when he had spoken to airmen, morale and enthusiasm for the job was "extremely high". But in comments obtained by The Daily Telegraph newspaper, Air Chief Marshal Bryant said morale is "fragile" and that many areas are "running hot", as the coalition's defence cuts appear to undermine the efforts of air crews.

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