PM hails troops on NATO mission in Libya

Prime Minister Stephen Harper traveled on Thursday to an air base in Italy to thank troops taking part in the NATO-led air strike campaign in Libya, state television reported.

Harper, who made a lightning visit to the base in Sicily on his way to a "Friends of Libya" conference in Paris, said Canada had "played a part well out of all proportion" in the "job of neutralizing" strongman Moamer Kadhafi.

"Without your commitment, your bravery and your actions, there would be no reason to meet later today" in the French capital, Harper said, according to images broadcast on the website of public network CBC.

The prime minister, who shook hands with soldiers after his address in a hangar at the air base in Trapani, said their efforts meant "the Libyan people are now free to choose."

"This is the best of Canada's military tradition," he said.

Canada is one of the leading nations in a NATO-led alliance that has conducted an aerial bombing campaign against the Kadhafi regime since March, when the United Nations approved action to protect civilians.

Ottawa has contributed six F-18 fighter planes and a frigate, and the NATO mission is led by a Canadian general.

[Source: AFP, Montreal, 01Sep11]

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