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UK 'undecided' on Libya helicopters

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No decision has yet been taken on deploying UK Apache attack helicopters to Libya, the Government has insisted, contradicting claims by a French minister.

Defence minister Nick Harvey was forced to explain the situation to MPs when Labour tabled an urgent question about the reported "escalation" of the Nato-led mission.

The Opposition complained that Parliament was being "kept in the dark" after French defence minister Gerard Longuet said Britain would follow France in using helicopters.

"The British, who have assets similar to ours, will also commit. The sooner the better is what the British think," Mr Longuet told reporters at a European Union meeting on Monday.

But Mr Harvey told the Commons: "My understanding is that the French have indeed taken a decision to deploy their attack helicopters in Libya.

"I state again for the avoidance of all doubt: no such decision has been taken by the United Kingdom. It is an option we are considering and there is absolutely no sense in which it is true to say that we have kept Parliament in the dark about a decision."

The use of helicopters would not represent an escalation of the mission, he insisted, but only a "tactical shift" to improve the ability to strike moving targets more precisely.

He spoke as the Ministry of Defence said RAF Tornado and Typhoon aircraft attacked a large military vehicle depot within Muammar Gaddafi's compound in the capital Tripoli.

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