Libya: Fox supports call for intensified campaign

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Media captionGeneral Sir David Richards said if Nato didn't "up the ante" now, there was a risk that Colonel Gaddafi could stay in power.

The Defence Secretary Liam Fox says he agrees with the head of the Armed Forces that Nato needs to intensify its campaign in Libya.

General Sir David Richards told the Sunday Telegraph direct attacks should be launched against the infrastructure propping up Colonel Gaddafi's regime.

He said it was necessary to prevent the Libyan leader remaining in power.

But the UN's under-secretary general for humanitarian relief called for a temporary cessation of hostilities.

Baroness Amos, the UN's under-secretary for humanitarian relief, said there was an urgent need for an end to the conflict and she was concerned that "any upscaling" in the fighting would have a significant impact on innocent civilians.

Speaking to Radio 4's The World This Weekend, she said: "My job is to make sure that we all remember that it is the innocent people who are suffering and that we need a political solution as quickly as we can."

The UK and other countries have been bombing Libya under a UN resolution authorising force to protect civilians.

The Security Council resolution authorises "all necessary measures" to protect civilians under threat of attack - short of an occupying force.

The views of Gen Richards, Chief of the Defence Staff, are said to be supported by other senior Nato officers.

They argue increasing the range of targets from direct threats such as tanks and command sites would be legitimate, but would require the backing of member states.

'Within rules'

Col Gaddafi's removal is not a specified military objective of the action.

But in the interview with the Telegraph, Gen Richards said it would be "within the rules" should he be killed in a strike on a command and control centre.

He said the "vice is closing on Gaddafi but we need to increase the pressure further through more intense military action".

He said: "If we do not up the ante now there is a risk that the conflict could result in Gaddafi clinging to power.

"At present, Nato is not attacking infrastructure targets in Libya. But if we want to increase the pressure on Gaddafi's regime then we need to give serious consideration to increasing the range of targets we can hit."

Gen Richards said that if Nato withdrew its forces with Col Gaddafi still in power, "then there is a significant risk that he will launch fresh attacks against the rebels".

"The prime minister and I are on the same page. We are in total agreement that the only solution to this conflict is for Gaddafi to go."

Gen Richards added there had been "hardly any civilian casualties as a result of the extreme care Nato has taken in the selection of bombing targets".

Legitimate target

Defence Secretary Liam Fox said there had already been an extension of the targeting in Libya.

He told the BBC's Politics Show: "We were very clear, it's acceptable to destroy the tanks and military vehicles of Gaddafi if they're directly threatening the civilian population, it's legitimate to degrade the command and control and intelligence networks of the regime which are used to control those forces and provide that threat.

"So we've increasingly been dealing with static targets rather than the moving targets like tanks."

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Media captionLiam Fox: 'It's legitimate to degrade the command and control and intelligence networks of the regime'

But former Nato commander Rear Admiral Chris Parry, who was involved in setting up two no-fly zones over Iraq, said the military plan had been made too hastily and the overall political and military aims had not been thought through.

Cdr Stephen Jermy, former assistant chief of staff for aviation, said the danger was stepping outside the mandate.

"Our mandate has been clear, to protect the civil population and actually what we really appear to be doing through our actions is much more to do with regime change," he said.

"There's no international mandate for that and if we were to do so it would break down the international coalition or the consensus that exists."

The comments come as a Nato official said it was aware of Libyan state media reports that as many as 11 clerics were killed in its strike on the town of Brega, but insisted that a "clearly identified" military command and control site had been targeted.

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