US Admiral Samuel Locklear admits door open to imperial ground troops in Libya, Al Jazeera reports Western forces on the ground: Reuters

Excerpt and Title by Rawlinsview
May 30, 2011
South African President Zuma flies into Tripoli
Peter Graff

(Reuters)Britain and other NATO powers are ratcheting up the military intervention to try to break a deadlock that has seen Gaddafi hold on to power despite a rebel uprising against his four-decade rule and weeks of air strikes.

U.S. Admiral Samuel Locklear, commander of the Joint Operations Command at Naples, declined to comment on whether NATO would put forces on the ground but suggested a small force may be needed to help the rebels once Gaddafi’s rule collapses.

He told the Varna forum: “I would anticipate that there might be a need at some point to unfold a small force … a small number of people there to help them in some way.”

Britain said the Enhanced Paveway III bombs, each weighing nearly a tone and capable of penetrating the roof or wall of a reinforced building, had arrived at the Italian air base from where British warplanes fly missions over Libya.

“We are not trying to physically target individuals in Gaddafi’s inner circle on whom he relies, but we are certainly sending them increasingly loud messages,” British Defense Secretary Liam Fox said on Sunday in a statement.

The military alliance says it is acting under a mandate from the United Nations to protect civilians from attack by security forces trying to put down the rebellion against Gaddafi.

But the more aggressive tactics risk causing divisions within the fragile alliance backing the intervention, and could also lead to NATO being dragged closer toward putting its troops on Libyan soil, something it is anxious to avoid.

Gaddafi’s foreign minister held talks in Tunisia on Saturday with Lord David Trefgarne, a former British government minister, according to a former British ambassador to Libya who took part in the discussions.

The ex-ambassador refused to disclose what they talked about and Britain’s government said neither it not any intermediaries were talking to officials loyal to Gaddafi.

ATTACK HELICOPTERS

Further deepening their involvement, Britain and France have said they will deploy attack helicopters over Libya to better pick out pro-Gaddafi forces. Helicopters are more vulnerable to attack from the ground than high-flying warplanes.

On Sunday Al Jazeera television station broadcast video footage of what it said were foreign forces, possibly British, on the ground near the rebel-held city of Misrata.

There were a number of armed men, some wearing sunglasses and keffiyahs, or traditional Arab headscarves, who moved off when they realized they were being watched, the footage showed.

Rebels control the east of Libya around the city of Benghazi, Libya’s third-biggest city Misrata, and a mountain range stretching from the town of Zintan, 150 km (95 miles) south of Tripoli, toward the border with Tunisia.

Helped by NATO air support, the rebels have been able to push back attacks by pro-Gaddafi forces but in many places they are still under bombardment and cut off from supplies.

Libyan state television reported that NATO air strikes killed 13 people in Zlitan on Monday, the next town westwards on the coast road toward Tripoli from Misrata.


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