Hague goes to Benghazi for talks with Libya rebels

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The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, flew into the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi yesterday in an unprecedented personal show of support for the rebel forces, as Britain stepped up the pressure on Muammar Gaddafi with the first Apache helicopter strike on military targets loyal to the Libyan leader.

Mr Hague and the International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, made a dramatic appearance in the main rebel-held sector of Libya to speak to National Transitional Council (NTC) members about the progress of the campaign against Col Gaddafi's forces. But they also discussed what would happen once Col Gaddafi was removed – with "a political road map for the future of Libya" on the table during meetings with NTC leader Mustafa Abdul Jalil.

The surprise development in the political campaign against the beleaguered Libyan leader came after international forces had escalated the military assault, with strikes against two military installations, a radar site and an armed checkpoint near Brega.

The former head of the Army, Lord Dannatt, said the move was an "inevitable intensification". He added: "The mission... is quite clear, it's to protect people, but, of course, the implied task – and let's be absolutely open and honest about it – is the removal of Col Gaddafi."

Mr Hague said: "We are here for one principal reason – to show our support for the Libyan people and for the National Transitional Council, the legitimate representative of the Libyan people."