Libya action 'not attack on Islam'
David Cameron has attempted to reassure Muslim opinion about the Nato-led military operation in Libya, telling students in Pakistan it is not an "attack on Islam".
The Prime Minister said the action not only has the backing of Arab countries and the United Nations but is designed to save the lives of innocent, mainly Muslim, civilians.
He rejected comparisons with the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq and insisted it is "nonsense" that action against the Gaddafi regime had been motivated by Western interests in Libya's oil.
Mr Cameron, on his first official visit to Pakistan as PM, launched a robust defence of the UK's participation in a speech at the Islamabad Institute of Information Technology.
He said he recognised that some people looked at the UK's role in Iraq, Afghanistan and Libya "and believe we're engaged in some sort of war against Islam".
"Nothing could be further from the truth," he told the audience. "I don't think anyone can seriously argue that international action in Libya is an attack on Islam. Backed by the United Nations and the Arab League, we have taken action to protect people - predominantly Muslim people - from slaughter, just as we did in Kosovo over a decade ago."
It is simply not comparable with the Iraq campaign, he said, which inflamed anti-Western sentiment and is credited by critics with fuelling further extremism.
"There will be no foreign invasion, and Arab nations like Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are actively contributing to the no-fly zone," he said. "And the argument that the West is acting because of oil is also nonsense.
"If this was the case, we could have let Gaddafi take Benghazi and Tobruk and the oil would have continued to flow. Instead, we took the difficult decision to stop Gaddafi."
"The evidence emerging from Misrata shows only too clearly why civilians need protection from Gaddafi's forces. As one Libyan put it: 'These strikes give us hope'. And we won't take that hope away."