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Cameron explains the purpose and operation of the Coalition in Libya

Tim Montgomerie

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Highlights, not verbatim, from the Prime Minister's speech at the beginning of today's Commons debate on imposing a No Fly Zone over Libya. Mr Cameron took a large number of interventions - notably from opponents of the policy such as Jeremy Corbyn, John McDonnell, Caroline Lucas and John Baron. His speech was notable for the number of times he explained why this intervention was different from Iraq.

A bloody massacre has been averted in Benghazi in the nick of time. A historic and proud city has been protected from destruction.

Gaddafi lied to his people and the international community when he declared a ceasefire that he had no intention of fulfilling.

David Cameron reiterated his own British government belief in regime change but said that the Coalition was only committed to establishing (1) a No Fly Zone and (2) protecting the civilian population of Libya.

Spain, Canada, Norway, Denmark, Belgium, Italy, Greece and Qatar have joined the Coalition in terms of supplying aircraft, airfields or other military equipment.

PM says Britain won't use uranium tipped munitions or cluster bombs in Libya.

Responding to Tory MP John Baron - who suggested (as in his ConHome OpEd) that Arab states should implement the NFZ - Mr Cameron said that speed was of the essence and without speedy intervention there could have been massive loss of life in Benghazi.

He confirmed that there would be no invading force but did not dissent when a backbench Conservative (Dan Byles) said that there would need to be a "robust search and rescue" force should an RAF pilot go down in Libya.

He said he was disturbed by events in Yemen but pressed on why the UK wasn't intervening in other parts of the Middle East he repeated his line that because we can't help every nation we shouldn't help anyone at all.

Coalition is currently operating under US leadership but will soon operate under NATO and through its established machinery.

Mark Pritchard asked a question about the safety of journalists in Libya (Roy Greenslade has listed those missing and detained). The Prime Minister sympathised and also urged broadcasters to regularly remind the public that journalists in Tripoli were operating under severe reporting restrictions.

There is a long way to go, Mr Cameron said, but many lives have been saved so far by Coalition action. Britain has acted in the best traditions of the nation.


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