British forces will continue mission in Libya says Hague

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The Independent Online

British forces will continue operations in Libya for as long as necessary as "intense" fighting continued in the last strongholds of Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's regime, William Hague told MPs.

In a statement updating the Commons on progress in the campaign, Mr Hague said there had been a "profound transformation" in the country.

But he acknowledged that the whereabouts of Colonel Gaddafi was not known and urged other countries not to provide him with shelter.

Mr Hague said: "The remaining Gaddafi supporters are concentrated in Bani Walid and in Sirte, where there has been intense fighting.

"The National Transitional Council has said that it intends to declare the liberation of Libya once Sirte has fallen, to move swiftly to form a transitional government within 30 days and to hold elections for a constitutional assembly within the following eight months."

He continued: "Colonel Gaddafi's location remains unknown, but scores of his closest supporters and family members have fled over Libya's border.

"Interpol have issued red notices for him, his son Saif al Islam and his former director of military intelligence, all of whom have been indicted by the International Criminal Court.

"No state should harbour any of these fugitives from justice."

Last week Nato agreed that the "positive trend in Libya is irreversible" but that not all the population was safe from attack.

"We will continue operations to enforce UN Security Resolution 1973 for as long as is necessary, at the request of the NTC," Mr Hague said.

"British planes and attack helicopters have flown some 3,000 sorties across Libya and have damaged or destroyed some 1,000 former regime targets.

"Their precision targeting has minimised civilian casualties and saved countless lives, helping Libyans to gain their freedom."

Earlier, Defence Secretary Liam Fox told reporters the fall of Sirte was "getting very close".

Dr Fox, who is fighting for his political future amid continuing questions about his relationship with lobbyist Adam Werritty, was in the Commons to support Mr Hague.