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The mission isn't accomplished but the overnight news from Libya is a big vindication for Cameron

By Tim Montgomerie
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Who can forget the image above? George W Bush celebrated "Mission Accomplished" when American forces had toppled Saddam's regime but before the bloody insurgency that killed so many had even begun.

There'll be no premature rejoicing in Downing Street at overnight news from Libya. For one thing we still don't know the whereabouts of Gaddafi. We don't know if forces loyal to him still have the capacity to cause bloodshed.

What is clear, however, is the end is nigh for a man who has been one of the world's ugliest dictators. The fact that he had remained in power despite the best efforts of the international community had cast a dark cloud over the Arab Spring. His departure will remove that cloud and will also dramatically increase pressure on Assad in Syria.

We cannot know if the rebel forces will rule well but we do know that we have helped to give them the opportunity to live as a free people. As Alistair Burt told the BBC this morning there is enormous affection for NATO from the Libyan people. One Libyan said that he thanked Allah and NATO for his country's liberation. This affection owes much to the huge care that British and other allied armed forces have taken to minimise civilian casualties. Mr Burt said we should be proud of this fact and hopeful that the Libyan rebels will govern as they have governed in other towns and cities that they've captured - in full co-operation with local authorities and without draconian actions.

It was David Cameron - supported in hugely significant ways by William Hague - and Nicolas Sarkozy that put this international alliance together. When the French were getting impatient with the time it was taking for operations to succeed and suggesting brokering a deal with Gaddafi, Britain didn't budge. There's a long road ahead for Libya but Cameron can be very proud of what has been delivered so far.


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