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Nato bombing of Libya to continue

Prime Minister David Cameron has promised that Britain will "stick to our task" in Libya, as he revealed that RAF pilots have already notched up more than 120 sorties and 250 flying hours as part of international military action to protect civilians.

Mr Cameron paid tribute to the "extremely skilful and dangerous" work of airmen who have targeted dictator Muammar Gaddafi's forces while "doing everything possible to avoid civilian casualties".

Tornado GR4 jets from RAF Marham in Norfolk flew deep into the Libyan desert in the early hours of Monday morning to destroy ammunition bunkers at Sabha being used by Gaddafi's military to attack opposition-held towns like Misrata.

And 22 of Gaddafi's tanks, armoured vehicles and big guns were hit by RAF Tornados flying sorties near Misrata and Ajdabiya over the weekend, the Ministry of Defence said.

Gaddafi's troops have now been driven from Ajdabiya and rebels were on Monday celebrating the seizure of the key oil towns of Brega and Ras Lanuf and are nearing the dictator's hometown of Sirte, a key regime stronghold. But Mr Cameron said the situation of civilians in Misrata and Zintan remains "extremely grave", with both under heavy attack.

He told MPs that allied operations have had a "significant and hugely beneficial effect", stopping Gaddafi's assault on Benghazi, the cradle of the uprising, and creating the conditions for the liberation of towns like Ajdabiya, Ras Lanuf and Bin Jawad.

"The no-fly zone is now fully operational and effective," said Mr Cameron in a statement to the Commons. "When it has been challenged, Gaddafi's planes have been shot down. He can not terrorise the Libyan people from the air."

He added: "We have moved quickly and decisively over the last week and we will stick to our task, as set out in the UN Resolution, and take all necessary measures to protect civilian life."

Mr Cameron and French president Nicolas Sarkozy released a joint statement setting out the objectives of an international conference on Libya being hosted by the UK in London on Tuesday. They stressed that they do not envisage any military occupation of Libya, and said that the north African state's political future must be determined by the Libyan people themselves.

The aims of the conference will be to strengthen the alliance with more support from new countries, including in the Arab world; to ensure the delivery of humanitarian aid; and to help plan for the future of Libya after the conflict is over.

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