Monday, May 23, 2011

NATO Adding Helicopters to Libya Campaign

Updated 11:59 p.m. edt

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is urging more NATO nations to step up and take an active role in the Libyan air campaign, which is struggling to maintain a strike tempo that wreaks havoc on Moammar Gadhafi's unrelenting forces.

"We have a lot of confidence in what our joint efforts are producing. We would like to see some other of our NATO friends and allies join in with us, in order to make sure that the pressure is maintained consistently," Clinton said after meeting with British Foreign Secretary William Hague.

The U.S. has no plans to increase its role, but Clinton pointed out that American warplanes, personnel and technology remains heavily engaged in Libya.

"Even today, the United States continues to fly 25 percent of all sorties, we continue to provide the majority of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance assets," Clinton said.

end update

French Gazelle and Tigre class helicopter gunships may soon join the NATO air campaign against Moammar Gadhafi, upping the ante with close-in air power that, while risky, will make it easier to target forces loyal to the well-hidden Libyan dictator, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe confirmed today.

"What we want is to better tailor our ability to strike on the ground with ways that allow more accurate hits," Juppe said, according to Reuters. "That is the goal in deploying helicopters."

A dozen French helicopters shipped out May 17 to Libya aboard the French amphibious assault carrier Tonnerre, the French daily Le Figaro reported.

"It is not just French helicopters ... it's coordinated action by the coalition," a diplomatic source said, in response to the newspaper report. "It is at NATO level."

Speaking to reporters in Brussels Juppe, insisted the use of helicopters is covered under a United Nations resolution to protect Libyan civilians from Gadhafi's wrath. The world court has issued an arrest warrant for Gadhafi, alleging the Libyan despot committed crimes against humanity.

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