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UK planes ready for Libya mission

RAF fighter planes have been deploying to the Mediterranean in preparation for expected military action to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya.

Prime Minister David Cameron ordered the launch of a mission codenamed Operation Ellamy after the United Nations Security Council approved a resolution authorising "all necessary measures" short of military occupation to protect civilians in Libya against the forces of dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

The Gaddafi regime responded by announcing an immediate ceasefire and "the stoppage of all military operations". Speaking in Tripoli, foreign minister Mussa Kussa declared that the regime recognised it was obliged to accept the resolution.

The announcement was treated with caution by Britain and its allies. Mr Cameron said Britain will judge Gaddafi "by his actions, not his words", while US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: "We would have to see action on the ground - and that is not yet at all clear."

Rebels reported that Gaddafi's forces were continuing to bombard the opposition-held cities of Misrata and Adjadbiya even after the ceasefire announcement.

President Barack Obama warned Gaddafi that the terms of the UN's demands were "not negotiable" and sent Libya the blunt ultimatum: "If Gaddafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences, and the resolution will be enforced through military action."

Troops must be pulled back from the opposition strongholds of Benghazi, Adjadbiya, Misrata and Zawiyah and gas, electricity, water and humanitarian relief must be supplied to the people of Libya, he said.

Speaking in the White House after conferring with congressional leaders, Mr Obama stressed that Britain, France and the Arab League would take a "leadership role" in enforcing the no-fly zone. While he did not say what forces the US would be committing to the operation, he suggested that some American military assets would be deployed in an "enabling" role in support of the Europeans.

After chairing an emergency meeting of the Cabinet at 10 Downing Street, the Prime Minister told MPs he was sending Typhoon and Tornado fast jet fighters, as well as surveillance and air-to-air refuelling aircraft, in order to prevent a "bloodbath" in Benghazi. There was no immediate announcement of where RAF jets will be operating from, although there is speculation that they could use bases in Cyprus or Sicily. Reports suggested Denmark, Canada and Norway may also provide planes, while Arab states Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Jordan and the United Arab Emirates may make a contribution to the operation.

The Libyan deputy foreign minister invited the United Nations to send a team of observers to monitor the ceasefire. At a press conference Khaled Kaim said Libyan forces had no intention of entering Benghazi.


From Belfast Telegraph