More Tornados sent to Libya as pressure mounts on Gaddafi

Britain is sending four more warplanes to Libya to help a fresh military push to oust Colonel Gaddafi, it was announced today.

The extra Tornado GR4s will mainly fly intelligence-gathering missions but will also be able to aid bombing raids against the dictator's forces and bases.

Foreign Secretary William Hague said "military pressure on the regime will continue to intensify" while a political solution is sought.

The UK has already provided 18 fast jets as part of the Nato-led mission, along with aircraft such as Apache attack helicopters. But amid fears of a stalemate in the country, Nato Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen called yesterday for members of the alliance to supply more air power.

Mr Hague also said the UN special envoy to Libya would press for talks to end the conflict. The UK has made clear Col Gaddafi can play no part in negotiations.

International leaders meeting in Istanbul agreed Libya's opposition should be the "legitimate authority" in the country. It marks a significant upgrade of the rebel Transitional National Council's global standing.

Earlier, it was reported that the dictator has threatened to blow up Tripoli if the capital falls into rebel hands.

Mikhail Margelov, the Russian envoy to the country, told Izvestia newspaper that Libyan prime minister Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi said to him: "If the rebels seize the city, we will deluge it with missiles and blow it up." Mr Margelov added: "I presume the Gaddafi regime has a suicidal plan of this kind."

Today the despot's regime claimed to have killed and captured rebel fighters as they reportedly repelled a Nato-led attack on the strategic oil town of Brega.

Regime spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said rebels, backed by international forces at sea and in the air, advanced on the eastern town in a co-ordinated attack. He claimed it violated the UN mandate to protect civilians.

"We did defeat both Nato and the rebels and we killed many rebel forces and captured a good number of them as well," he added.

Syrian security forces have killed 14 people protesting against President Bashar al-Assad's regime, an activist said. Today's rallies appear to be the largest since the uprising began in March. Omar Idilbi said seven of the victims died in the capital Damascus.

[Source: By Craig Woodhouse, Political Reporter, Evening Standard, London, 15Jul11]

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