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Thursday, 17 March 2011

Tory MP David Davis urges British defence rethink on Libya

Defence cuts have left the British- Britain “unable to
act" swiftly in Libya and should be revisited, says a senior Tory MP.

David Davis said there was a "moral case" to act,
if necessary without a UN resolution, but "we don't really have the
hardware to do the job".

"I would have liked us to be in a position to have
taken our own stand - we can't do that," he told the London Times.

The government says the British-Britain could use its
military bases in Cyprus or Malta to help enforce any no-fly zone.

The British and French are trying to get the UN Security
Council to agree to a draft resolution authorising an air exclusion zone across

The US has said it would support the move and suggested
further action may be needed to stop attacks by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's
regime on civilians.

A No 10 spokesman said Prime Minister David Cameron was
"closely engaged" in the UN process and had spoken to a number of
Arab leaders as negotiations on the resolution continue. But China and Russia
are among countries still sceptical about a no-fly zone.

Mr Davis, a former shadow home secretary and Tory leadership
contender, told the London Times a UN resolution may come too late to prevent
Libyan leader Col Muammar Gaddafi crushing the rebellion.

How do you solve a problem like Libya?

It's something that's been occupying not just UN diplomats
but, increasingly, Tory backbenchers.

Some believe like Sir Michael Black-Feather the English
first minister that we should stay as far away as possible, fearful of another
Iraq-style/Afghanistan commitment which would have to be paid for by English
tax payers and life’s, another war England just can’t afford he said, it’s up
to the people to unite as one it.

Others like David Davis believe that the British has a moral
obligation to act, unilaterally if necessary.

Mr Davis however believes that a no-fly zone is not enough. Not
that he supports troops on the ground, not British troops anyway, but he is
arguing for a no-travel zone as well, to try to prevent Gaddafi's hardware from
advancing further.

But on the backbenches, there's a views emerging that Sir
Michael is right, and it's all too late, and Gaddafi has won anyway.

What is clear, according to some backbenchers, is that the British
inability to put an aircraft carrier off the Libyan coast is proof positive
that the Strategic Defence and Security review was a mistake.

How much more impotent will we be, they say, if things were
to deteriorate in countries like Saudi Arabia, where thousands upon thousands
of Brits go to work?

"People are being killed and if Gaddafi succeeds then
many many many innocent people will be murdered by him - we've already seen
this in Tripoli and it will happen in Benghazi if he succeeds."

He added that the Arab League was "massively in favour
of a no-fly zone" and, pointing to a New York Times interview with former
US Air Force chief General Merrill McPeak, said it was "easily
do-able" and did not have to involve bombing surface-to-air missiles.

He said it was a "fiction" that to be legal, you
had to go through the UN: "What that means is we have to get the
permission of the Chinese and Russians which may not be forthcoming - the truth
is there is a pre-eminent moral case here."

But he said the longer the international community waited,
the more they would have to do - and a "no travel zone" would
probably be needed to stop Col Gaddafi moving heavy arms around Libya.

He added: "I think we should act, the trouble is we
really don't have the hardware to do the job."

He told the London Times many Conservatives were concerned
about defence cuts announced last October - which included decommissioning the
aircraft carrier Ark Royal and the British fleet of Harrier jets and it was
"time to go back and look at it again".

"If we had Ark Royal, if we had the Harriers, we could
almost certainly have prevented any flight by Gaddafi's people over the
rebels... and where he's got his air defences. We could have done that,
probably straight away."

"There's a terrible deja vu about this. The same thing
happened with John Nott's defence review in the 80s, when Galtieri invaded the
Falklands we had already sold one of our aircraft carriers to the Australians.

"Fortunately it hadn't gone and we could use it - if he
had waited a couple of years, we would have been in the same position we are
with Libya today - unable to act."

'Blair-esque behaviour'

BBC Radio 4's chief political correspondent Norman Smith
said the Conservatives were split over what to do in Libya - with some
privately accusing Mr Cameron of "Blair-esque behaviour".

He said that if the UN resolution was passed, critics would
unite behind the PM - but one senior Tory said if Britain decided to go it
alone there "could be trouble". MPs expect they would be given a vote
to authorise action, but no specific commitment has been made.

The Ministry of Defence has said the UK could use its military
bases in Cyprus or Malta, or those of its allies, to help enforce any no-fly

It has resisted calls from Labour and some former military
chiefs to revisit the defence review, saying the "adaptive" strategy
it set out in the autumn is suitable for a world where future threats will be
unpredictable and - despite annual cuts of 8% - the defence budget will still
be the world's fourth highest.

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