PARIS – France and Italy announced Wednesday that they will send military officers to advise rebels fighting for the ouster of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s regime.
A French government spokesman was quoted as saying that fewer than 10 officers would be sent. Britain is sending a similar team to provide support to rebels in the eastern city of Benghazi.Libya’s foreign minister criticised the British plan, saying it would prolong fighting.
Meanwhile, French President Nicolas Sarkozy promised to intensify air strikes in Libya.
However, Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said the idea of such a deployment was “a realissue” that deserved consideration by the UN Security Council. In France as in Britain, there is concern about the Libyan campaign turning into an open-ended commitment as both governments push to its limits the UN resolution endorsing the protection of civilians in Libya. The comments came as Libyan rebel Abdul Jalil met French President Nicolas Sarkozyin Paris, where he thanked the French “for their brave decision to support the Libyan revolution”.The British team, expected to number about 10, isset to provide logistics and intelligence training in Benghazi. UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said the officers would advise the NTC [opposition National Transitional Council ]on how to “improve their military organisational structures, communications and logistics”, and would not be involved in any fighting. Fighting was continuing on Wednesday in the centre of the city, with rebel stelling Reuters that they had made some gains. The conflict in Misrata has turned the city into a battlefield, causing hundreds of deaths. Col Gaddafi’s forces have been accused of using heavy weaponry to fire in discriminately on civilian areas.
Meanwhile, thousands desperate to flee intense fighting in western Libya have begun pouring into neighboring Tunisia in recent days, raising concerns Tuesday among aid agencies that the humanitarian crisis couldworsen, CNN reported. “In thelast two days, we have seen 6,000Libyans come through,” Firas Kayal, of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, said by phone from near the Tunisian border town of Dehiba.