Cameron on Libya: “We are ready to extend the NATO mandate for as long as is necessary”


From David Cameron, Office of the Prime Minister:  Britain could not stand by as Qadhafi slaughtered his people. Nor could we allow a failed pariah state festering on Europe’s southern border, with the potential to threaten our own security. The Libyan Opposition and the Arab League both called for NATO to protect the civilian population.

So together with the US and France, we secured agreement for UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973. And with this clear legal mandate, this House voted by a majority of 544 in favour of military action. Today the Libyan people have taken their country back.

Mr Speaker, I am grateful for the support that all sides of this House have given throughout the last six months and I am sure the whole House will join me in paying tribute to the incredible dedication and professionalism of our pilots, sailors and ground crew. But we should also pay tribute to the bravery and resilience of the Libyan people themselves. This has been their revolution and none of it would have happened without them. . . .

Britain has been at the forefront of the military operation to protect the Libyan people. Our planes and attack helicopters have made 2,400 sorties across Libya carrying out one fifth of all NATO airstrikes, against some 900 targets in Qadhafi’s war machine. Our warships have supported this effort, helping enforce the UN arms embargo, and bringing aid to those in need. At its peak, some 2,300 British service men and women were deployed on Operation ELLAMY with 36 aircraft including 16 Tornados, 6 Typhoons, 5 attack helicopters, tankers and specialist surveillance aircraft and helicopters… supported over the course of the operation by 8 warships and a hunter-killer submarine. But the job is not over.

As we stand, the Free Libya Forces have liberated Tripoli and control Libya’s key population centres. But, pro-Qadhafi forces still pose a threat and in particular control the towns of Bani Walid, Sirte, and Sebha in the south.

The National Transitional Council has been working to negotiate a peaceful outcome. But their leaders have explicitly requested that NATO continues its operations to protect civilians until that is achieved. Over the weekend RAF Tornados struck eight military command and control installations South-West of Waddan and nine weapons and ammunition stores near Sirte. For as long as Qadhafi remains at large, the safety and security of the Libyan people remains under threat.

So let me be clear. We will not let up until the job is done. First, Britain and its NATO allies will continue to implement UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973 for as long as we are needed to protect civilian life. Those thinking NATO will somehow pull out or pull back must think again. We are ready to extend the NATO mandate for as long as is necessary.  (photo: Reuters)

Image: reuters%209%205%2011%20David%20Cameron.jpg