UK minister refuses to rule out ground troops for Libya22/03/2011 - 14:50:10
A British government minister has today refused to rule out the deployment of British ground troops in Libya.
Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey said there was a clear distinction between sending in a full-scale occupation force - which is banned under the terms of the United Nations mandate - and a more limited intervention.
He also acknowledged that Libya could be facing a prolonged stalemate - with the rebels securing the east of the country but unable to break Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's stranglehold on the capital Tripoli.
His comments came after Prime Minister David Cameron tried to reassure MPs that Libya would not be "another Iraq" - with international forces "knocking over" the government and then being left responsible for the aftermath.
Pressed on whether British ground troops could be deployed in a defensive role, protecting civilians, Mr Harvey said he could not at this stage "rule anything in or rule anything out" - although he said he does not believe any deployment would be on a "significant scale".
And after ministers earlier appeared to be at odds with senior military commanders over whether they could legitimately target Gaddafi, Mr Harvey insisted the air strikes are aimed at military targets.
No 10 aides had previously sought to leave open the option that the Libyan leader could be targeted after Chief of the Defence Staff General David Richards said it is "not allowed" under the terms of the UN mandate.
Mr Harvey said: "Our targets are not individuals, our targets are the military capability that runs the risk of presenting a threat to the Libyan population.
"The departure of Colonel Gaddafi is very much the political objective of the British Government. But that is not what the United Nations resolution has provided for - the United Nations resolution has set about a military process of degrading the military threat that is presented to the Libyan population."
Meanwhile, RAF Typhoon fighters stationed at Gioia del Colle in southern Italy are patrolling the newly established no-fly zone over Libya after a third straight night of bombing of the Gaddafi regime's air defences and command and control structure by coalition forces.
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