Caution urged over no-fly zone
Britain and its allies should think "long and hard" before sending western warplanes to protect Libyan rebels fighting to overthrow Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, the former head of the Army has warned.
General Lord Dannatt echoed US defence secretary Robert Gates's concern that there was too much "loose talk" about the prospect of imposing a military no-fly zone over the North African state.
David Cameron has led international calls for plans for a no-fly zone to be drawn up in case Gaddafi intensifies his brutal suppression of the popular uprising against him.
However, Lord Dannatt said that the nations involved needed to be sure about their strategic objectives before committing military forces.
"That needs to be thought through long and hard," he told BBC2's Newsnight.
"I think just talking about a no-fly zone - Robert Gates in the United States said that was rather loose talk. I think it is fairly loose talk. We need to be quite clear what our national interest is as far as Libya is concerned.
"If we think some more intervention is right we need to work out what our strategic objective is and make a campaign plan that translates that strategic objective through activity on the ground that can be delivered. So loose talk must be quite carefully thought through."
Lord Dannatt warned that Western powers should not allow themselves to be drawn deeper into a conflict between Libyans.
"What happens if the no-fly zone doesn't work? Do you then put a ground intervention in? What appetite is there for that?" he said. "Do we want to see Judaeo-Christian boots on the ground in another Muslim country? I think we have done enough of that recently."
Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey said that international support for a no-fly zone had been growing since Mr Cameron took a lead on the issue. "There seems to be an increasing willingness now among a large number of nations to contemplate that as a way for preventing mass bloodshed and slaughter," he told Newsnight.