UK military chief moves to allay fears over Libya
THE HEAD of Britain's armed forces, General Sir David Richards, moved yesterday to allay fears that Britain could not maintain the current level of military operations in Libya for much longer.
He spoke out after Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope, head of the Navy, warned that the government would have to make "challenging decisions" if the mission lasted more than six months.
With little sign of Muammar Gaddafi being forced out of power in the near future, ministers have insisted that Britain is ready for the "long haul" in Libya.
Sir Mark, the First Sea Lord, said the campaign would have been easier if naval commanders had been able to call on the aircraft carrier and the fleet of Harrier jump jets scrapped last year. But Gen Richards insisted yesterday: "We can sustain this operation as long as we choose to. I am absolutely clear on that." He said it was "not correct" that the UK could only maintain operations for another three months and suggested the First Sea Lord had been misunderstood.
Liam Fox, Britain's Defence Secretary, also guaranteed the forces would be given the resources they required.
However, Rear Admiral Terry Loughran, a former commander of the Ark Royal, said an aircraft carrier with Harriers on board would have been invaluable in Libya. "With a ship off the coast, you get almost instantaneous response from the Harriers on board -- literally 20 minutes and they are over the area," he told reporters.
In Libya, rebels made fresh gains as they pushed back forces loyal to Gaddafi in clashes that brought them closer to Tripoli. Insurgents seized the town of Kikla, 93 miles southwest of Tripoli, and pushed west of Misrata to the outskirts of government-held Zlitan. The rebels also launched a fresh push on the oil port of Brega in the east. (© Independent News Service)