Navy chief warns over Libya role

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The Government will have to make "challenging decisions" about military priorities if the Nato-led Libya campaign continues beyond the summer, the head of the Royal Navy said yesterday.

First Sea Lord Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope said: "If we do it longer than six months we will have to reprioritise forces. That is being addressed now."

He also conceded that elements of the operation would have been cheaper and "much more reactive" if the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal had not been scrapped. But he insisted he was not calling for the decision to axe the vessel and its Harrier jump jets to be reversed.

The Defence Secretary Liam Fox insisted the UK remained a serious military force and had the resources necessary to take part.