Thursday, May 26, 2011

G-8 Looks to Help Libyan Rebels & NATO

Updated 4:45 p.m. edt

France and Britain will deploy 16 helicopter gunships in Libya, including British Apaches, claiming Moammar Gadhafi is on the run and the precision ground attack aircraft will hasten the demise of his forces, according to the Financial Times.

The attack helicopters could be ready to go in a matter of days, the newspaper reported today. The leaders of the Britain, France and the United States discussed the decision to deploy the helicopters on the sidelines today at the Group of Eight summit in France.

The Associated Press later confirmed that the British government had green-lighted the use of Apaches in Libya.

As previously reported, France is sending 12 Tiger and Gazelle helicopters aboard the amphibious assault ship Tonnerre. The Apaches are on the British amphibious assault ship HMS Ocean, the Financial Times said.

end update

As world leaders meet at a French resort in Normandy, the Canadians are apparently coming under a little pressure to do a bit more in Libya.

Canada, of course, is not the only NATO member feeling the heat from the French, British and U.S., who are doing the lion's share of the work in Libya. However, it is a touchy subject since the commander of the NATO mission in Libya, Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard, hails from the Canadian air force.

Hoping to deflect the jabs, Canadian military officials released raw figures this week showing their fighter jets have dropped 240 bombs over Libya during 324 sorties, The Toronto Star reported.

Ottawa has sent six CF-18 fighters, patrol and refuelling aircraft and the ship HMCS Charlottetown.

The G-8 summit in France comes as the Gadhafi regime floated its latest ceasefire deal, which so far is being received with a yawn by the Western powers.

Meanwhile, during one of the most under-reported diplomatic missions this week, Abdurraham Mohamed Shalgham, the Gadhafi regime's former UN ambassador until he publicly split with the dictator at the UN  Security Council in February, re-surfaced in Moscow.

Shalgham, who delivered upon his resignation a dramatic headline-making address in which he likened the Libyan leader to Adolf Hitler, was greeted by one of the NATO mission's biggest critics, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The meeting, seen in diplomatic circles as much more than Moscow hedging its bet, came a week after he held talks with an envoy for Gadhafi.

"Russia is an important state and plays an important role in Libya. Russia has its own ideas, and I want to listen to them," said Shalgham was quoted as saying by The Moscow Times.

Shalgham, who also had served as Gadhafi's foreign minister at one time, indicated there was no ill-will with Russia for its criticism, saying the Transitional National Council understood Lavrov's position.

In another sign that the TNC is winning over Western governments' hearts and minds, the rebel government accepted an invitation this week from the U.S. to open a liaison office in Washington.

The European Union and Germany also opened liaison offices in the de facto rebel capital, Benghazi.

It was also announced the rebels have begun selling oil headed to the U.S.  In a deal first agreed upon in late April, U.S. refiner Tesoro purchased the first oil cargo sold by rebels who need cash to finance their fight with Gadhafi.

San Antonio-based Tesoro told Reuters the Libyan rebel crude will processed in its Hawaii refinery.

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