miércoles, 27 de abril de 2011

Libya: Gaddafi on the 'back foot', says Liam Fox - BBC News

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi is "on the back foot", Defence Secretary Liam Fox has said, citing new momentum in Nato's air campaign.

He said there had been "significant progress" in the past 72 hours against Col Gaddafi's forces in Misrata.

He was speaking at a press conference at the Pentagon after meeting US Defence Secretary Robert Gates.

Misrata has come under attack by Libyan government forces attempting to retake the besieged city.

Three people were reportedly killed as missiles slammed into the city's port, a lifeline for those seeking to escape to the rebel stronghold Benghazi.

Nato is enforcing a UN resolution to protect civilians in Libya amid a two-month revolt inspired by other uprisings in the Arab world.

Speaking before the latest bombardment, Mr Fox said: "We have seen significant progress made in the last 72 hours with Gaddafi's forces losing their grip on Misrata and we have received reports of under-age soldiers and foreign mercenaries being captured - this underlines the regimes inability to rely on its own security forces.

"These are the tactics of an increasingly desperate and weak regime."

"Start Quote

All that we want is that men, women and children can sleep safe in their own homes knowing that they will not be attacked by their own government."

End Quote Liam Fox Defence Secretary

He said of the international community's enforcement of the UN resolution: "We understand our duty and our resolve will not waver as long as that civilian population remains at risk from an aggressive and wicked regime which has waged war on its own people."

Asked about a Nato air strike on Monday on Col Gaddafi's compound in Libya, Mr Gates told reporters that command and control centres were "legitimate" targets, although Nato was not targeting Col Gaddafi specifically.

Mr Fox added: "All that we want is that men, women and children can sleep safe in their own homes knowing that they will not be attacked by their own government."

Stalemate issue

Earlier, Foreign Secretary William Hague said the conflict had "not settled into a stalemate", and "time was not on the side" of Col Gaddafi.

He added that the UK had so far given £13m of aid to Libya, including food for 10,000 people in Misrata.

Also, UK Chief of the Defence Staff General Sir David Richards met his US counterpart Adm Mike Mullen, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff.

Last week, Adm Mullen said the war in Libya was "moving towards stalemate" despite the destruction of 30-40% of Col Gaddafi's ground forces.

Asked about those comments by shadow foreign secretary Douglas Alexander, Mr Hague told the House of Commons that, while the situation in eastern Libya was somewhat "static", the overall situation was not a stalemate.

He said: "We are often asked in international conflicts whether time is on our side.

"We should be confident that in this situation, given this coalition, this range of sanctions, these intensifying efforts, time is not on the side of Gaddafi and the members of his regime need to know that."

Mr Alexander said he supported moves announced by the government during Parliament's recess to assist the rebel fighters, including the provision of body armour and communications equipment.

But he added: "The ad hoc and apparently unco-ordinated manner in which they were announced, rooted in no clearly articulated plan, has, I fear, only served to increase anxieties held by many members of the public."

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