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PM in talks on 'key role' for Nato

Prime Minister David Cameron has discussed the need for Nato to play a "key role" in the military action in Libya with US President Barack Obama amid continued wrangling over whether the alliance should take charge of the no-fly zone.

Nato is launching an operation to enforce the international embargo and has completed plans "if needed" to take charge of the operation to enforce the no-fly zone declared by the United Nations Security Council last week, its Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said.

However Nato ambassadors meeting in Brussels have so far failed to agree whether the alliance should take over when the United States relinquishes command in the next few days.

A Number 10 spokesman said the Mr Cameron and Mr Obama spoke on the phone and "were satisfied that substantial progress had been made so far in implementing UNSCR 1973, and that the international community's action had helped save countless civilian lives in Benghazi". "They agreed that lot of work remained to be done, and that avoiding civilian casualties remained paramount," he said.

David Cameron has argued for a Nato operation, telling the Commons that the alliance had a "tried and tested machinery" for running such a complex multi-national mission. France however has warned that putting Nato in charge would alienate Arab countries and risk undermining the cohesion of the international consensus behind the no-fly zone.

Turkey, the only alliance member which is predominantly Muslim, has also expressed concern that the air attacks and missile strikes carried out by the coalition of Britain, France and the US went beyond the UN mandate.

The Prime Minister's spokesman suggested that a wider group of countries would have to be involved than just the Nato member states while French foreign minister Alain Juppe called for the creation of a "political steering group". The row came as Algeria joined Russia and China in calling for an immediate ceasefire.

Britain's involvement in the action was approved by MPs on Monday but many voiced concerns in the six-hour debate. There has also been apparent disagreement between military commanders and politicians about whether Gaddafi himself is a legitimate target.

The RAF is again patrolling the skies above Libya. The Chief of Defence Staff's Strategic Communication Officer, Major General John Lorimer, said: "Working alongside our coalition partners, UK Typhoon aircraft have continued operations today patrolling the No-Fly Zone in support of UNSCR 1973.

"A further four GR4 Tornados left RAF Marham in Norfolk... to conduct further air reconnaissance missions over Libya as part of Operation Ellamy. No ordnance was released. These Tornados have now landed at Gioia del Colle and will stand ready to assist as required."


From Belfast Telegraph