Libyan opposition leaders to get advice from UK military
British move comes as Interpol issues a global alert against Muammar Gaddafi and 15 other in an effort to enforce sanctionsRebel fighters in eastern Libya are to receive advice from British experts. Photograph: Goran Tomasevic/Reuters
The move is a clear intervention on the ground to bolster the anti-Gaddafi uprising, learn more about its leadership and see what logistical support it needs. Whitehall sources said the diplomatic task force would not be providing arms to the rebels, as there is an international arms embargo.
It came as Interpol issued a global alert against Muammar Gaddafi and 15 other Libyans, including his daughter and seven sons, in an effort to enforce sanctions.
David Cameron has been determined to back the resistance partly because, following advice this week by experts and Libyans in the UK, he believes that it is neither simply tribal nor Islamist, but is built round democratic demands that could in the medium term mark a decline in anti-western mood in the Middle East.
The foreign secretary, William Hague, has been in telephone contact with General Abdul Fattah Younis Obaidi, the former Libyan interior minister, now based in Benghazi, who is seen as a likely successor to Gaddafi. Obaidi was placed in charge of military defences in the city in a sign that he is at the helm of the opposition.
British officials know the identity of all the members of the broad-based Benghazi committee currently focused on keeping essential services and defences going.
As the situation regarding international involvement developed rapidly , Nato commanders were instructed to draw up plans for a wide range of military options, including a no-fly zone. Cameron had earlier faced criticism – including from the Pentagon – for raising the idea of a Nato no-fly zone.
The UK government believes the national council in Benghazi is focused on keeping essential services running, but where it can is "now thinking about how they can take the struggle forward to other parts of the country. They are not yet calling themselves a government in waiting and we have not yet seen a coherent programme", one source said.
The UK diplomatic task force is to assess humanitarian need and keep the opposition leaders in the east of the country better informed about diplomatic activity. The national council is focused most on what it can do to help the isolated rebel towns close to Tripoli.
British diplomats quit Libya last week as the fighting escalated. They remain unable to access the largely pro-Gaddafi west of Libya, from which all aid agencies, including the Red Cross, have been barred.
Ambassadors representing the 28 Nato countries instructed military commanders to start planning for what an alliance spokesperson described as "all eventualities".
However, the spokesperson added that "operational steps" had not yet been taken and that the UN security council had not authorised the use of force.
Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Nato's secretary general, has made it clear that in his view a no-fly zone would require a specific UN resolution. The decision to draw up contingency plans was not officially announced, because of the sensitivity surrounding an issue on which the alliance is far from united.
The decision to task Nato commanders with contingency planning was taken despite serious reservations expressed by Robert Gates, shared by British military chiefs. "Let's just call a spade a spade. A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defences ... and then you can fly planes around the country and not worry about our guys being shot down," Gates said earlier this week. However, President Barak Obama subsequently said he was placing US military assets near Libya to ensure he had the "full capacity to act" if the situation deteriorated further.
But the government has placed on alert air, sea, and ground forces that could quickly intervene in the conflict if ordered to do so.
Typhoon jets would be deployed to RAF Akrotiri in one of the two sovereign base areas in Cyprus, while 3rd Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland – the Black Watch – is on 24 hours' notice to help in evacuation and humanitarian operations, defence officials said.
An RAF airborne radar and early warning aircraft is based in Malta where the MoD has also set up a forward joint task force headquarters. Officials declined to say what intelligence they had gathered on the quality and number of pro-Gaddafi aircraft and armour.
Meanwhile, a ship understood to contain £100m worth of Libyan dinars has been seized and escorted into Harwich docks in Essex by the UK Border Agency Vigilant, the Home Office said.
The vessel had returned to the UK after failing to dock in Tripoli last weekend. She was tracked by British authorities and intercepted off the coast. The chancellor, George Osborne, froze Gaddafi's £900m of UK-based assets last Sunday.
Friday, 4 March 2011
Libyan opposition leaders to get advice from UK military | World news | The Guardian