Libya fighting not over yet, says William Hague

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The Gaddafi regime is "finished" but Nato operations will continue while Libyan civilians remain under threat from fighting, Foreign Secretary William Hague said today.

After chairing a meeting of the Government's National Security Council on Libya, Mr Hague said forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi were still putting up resistance.

UK forces would continue to play their part in the Nato campaign, he added.

"Our resolve is unwavering on this, as it has been throughout the crisis, so it's important to stress that these operations go on," he said.

"The Gaddafi regime is finished - there is no way back for the Gaddafi regime and clearly many of its key members are on the run.

"But there remain forces active loyal to the Gaddafi regime, concentrated particularly in the south of Tripoli and around the city of Sirte.

"As long as that remains the case and they remain a threat to the civilian population, the Nato operations will continue.

"So this is not over yet. The regime is finished but fighting, as everyone can see from their television screens, is not over yet."

Nato is also assisting in the manhunt by Libyan rebels for Gaddafi, whose compound in Tripoli was seized earlier this week, and other members of his regime.

The SAS is leading the search, according to unconfirmed reports.

A £1 million reward is on the table for anyone able to capture the ousted dictator.

Soldiers from the elite 22 SAS Regiment were said to be helping track down the 69-year-old.

According to the Daily Telegraph, the SAS soldiers, dressed in Arab civilian clothing and armed with the same weapons as the locals, have been hunting for Gaddafi on the ground in Libya on the orders of Prime Minister David Cameron.

Mr Hague said "enormous progress" had been made in recent days and that the priority now was to give the National Transitional Council (NTC) diplomatic support to build a "free, democratic and inclusive future for Libya".

A conference in Paris to be led by Mr Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy would provide an opportunity for the NTC to set out its plans for the future of Libya, he said.

"We have made enormous progress in recent days - diplomatically and on the ground in Libya," Mr Hague added.

Some of Gaddafi's closest allies in government appeared to be deserting him as Nicaragua apparently offered him asylum.

But Gaddafi was still resisting arrest as he went on the run. He said it was a "tactical" move to flee his base in Tripoli, adding that he had gone on a discreet tour of the Libyan capital and did not feel in danger.

As rebel fighters searched the city, the dictator told residents in a poor-quality telephone address on local television that they must "cleanse" Tripoli of his regime's enemies and free it from the "devils" who have overrun it.

Defence Secretary Liam Fox stressed today there were "absolutely no plans to have any British boots on the ground".

He also criticised stalling in the process to allow the UN to unfreeze 1.5 billion US dollars of Libyan assets as "disappointing", adding that there was "huge moral pressure on South Africa" to support those moves.

Mr Cameron, on holiday with his family in Cornwall, spoke to South African president Jacob Zuma this morning about the need for international support for the Libyan people.

"They agreed that Libya now has the opportunity for transition to a peaceful, democratic and inclusive government and they discussed how the international community should actively and urgently support this process," a Downing Street spokeswoman said.

"The Prime Minister welcomed South African support of the release of 500 million US dollars of frozen Libyan assets for humanitarian needs and the leaders agreed that the African Union needs to take swift decisions at their summit in Addis Ababa today on the unfreezing of further assets.

"The Prime Minister emphasised the need for strong international leadership in support of the Libyan people who now have the opportunity to achieve a stable and prosperous future for their country."