Cameron tries to calm British fears over Libya operation

Calming British fears

LONDON—Prime Minister David Cameron tried to reassure a war-weary public on Monday that Britain’s military involvement in Libya will not drag it into another Iraq-style conflict.

After a six-hour debate, the British parliament voted overwhelmingly to support Cameron’s decision to send British planes and ships to help enforce a no-fly zone to stop attacks on civilians by the forces of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The vote was 557-13, although some lawmakers voiced fears of getting dragged deeper into the Libyan conflict and others questioned why Britain had chosen to intervene in Libya but not in other crisis-hit countries.

Hanging heavy over the debate was the shadow of Iraq, where 179 British soldiers were killed in a long-running conflict after former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair backed then U.S. President George W. Bush’s decision to invade in March 2003.

Only one in three Britons agree with the decision to take military action in Libya, a poll published on Monday showed.

About 250 Canadians left

With all flights cancelled out of Libya and no boats scheduled to leave its ports, Ottawa is advising some 250 Canadians still in the country to “exercise extreme caution,” should they decide to flee overland.

The Canadian government airlifted 348 Canadians before the suspension of evacuation operations, said Alain Cacchione, spokesperson for the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade.

The Canadian embassy in Tripoli is closed, Cacchione said, “and the ability to provide consular assistance to Canadians in Libya is limited at this time. We advise Canadians in Libya to leave the country immediately, so long as they can do so safely.”

He said the vast majority still there “. . . have chosen to remain in Libya.”

Extending no-fly zone

WASHINGTON—International forces intend to extend a no-fly zone to the Libyan capital of Tripoli, hundreds of kilometres distant from the area of recent fighting between forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi and the rebels seeking to topple him, the U.S. commander in the region said Monday.

Gen. Carter Ham also said the American role in a three-day old air assault to degrade Libya’s military capability already had begun to decline, with the overwhelming share of Monday’s missions flown by pilots from other countries in the coalition.

“With the growing capabilities of the coalition, I anticipate the no-fly zone will soon extend to Brega, Misurata, and then to Tripoli,” he said.

The no-fly zone is mainly over the coastal waters off Libya and around the city of Benghazi in the east.

Obama’s challenge

WASHINGTON—The fierce, American-led air assault on Libya is coming under growing political fire both at home and abroad, throwing the White House on the defensive and raising potential problems for President Barack Obama as he plans his 2012 re-election campaign.

Political analysts say Obama could benefit politically if Gadhafi is quickly ousted, or if the military effort to protect civilians and impose a no-fly zone produces a quick and relatively bloodless resolution. But if Gadhafi clings to power in Tripoli, and the conflict degrades into a brutal stalemate, criticism is likely to mount.

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