Cameron revels in UK's role in regime change


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Indy Politics

The Prime Minister rounded yesterday on the "armchair generals" who criticised his strategy in Libya as he insisted that the fall of Tripoli justified the involvement of British forces in the Nato-led operation.

Although Colonel Muammar Gaddafi remains at large and is still vowing to fight to the death, David Cameron came close to striking a triumphalist note in a strong defence of the military intervention.

He also scoffed at analysts who argued that Libya was divided between Gaddafi loyalists around Tripoli and opposition forces in and around Benghazi, in the east.

Mr Cameron said Britain had played a significant part in the international coalition to defend Libyan civilians from Gaddafi's forces.

He argued that the UK had been "punching at our weight or even above our weight" although it could no longer call on an aircraft carrier after cuts to the military budget.

Yesterday, Michael Clarke, the director of the Royal United Services Institute think-tank, warned that the military had been forced to "improvise" to meet the demands on it and had almost run out of tank-busting missiles.

But Mr Cameron said: "A lot of armchair generals who said you couldn't do it without an aircraft carrier, they were wrong. People who said we were going to run out of munitions, they were wrong."

In the absence of an aircraft carrier, the RAF mounted bombing operations from southern Italy.

The Prime Minister told BBC Radio 4's Today programme: "Because we have basing ability all over the Mediterranean, I don't think we did suffer from not having an aircraft carrier."

He said the coalition had learnt lessons from Iraq. "I think one of the reasons why Tripoli is getting itself back together again in relatively good order – and of course there will be difficult days – is because it wasn't a foreign force that knocked over Gaddafi's regime, the Libyans did it themselves."

The Prime Minister argued that it was both morally right, and in the British national interest, for Gaddafi to be removed from power. He said: "Gaddafi was a monster. He was responsible for appalling crimes, including crimes in this country, and I think the world will be much better off without him."

However, the senior Tory MP Sir Malcolm Rifkind, a former Defence Secretary, said he doubted that similar military action could be staged in future because of spending cuts.