Britain deploys top diplomat, helicopters to Libya

UK Foreign Minister flew to Benghazi for talks with rebels fighting to oust Libyan leader.

Benghazi: British Foreign Minister
William Hague flew to Benghazi on Saturday for talks with rebels
fighting to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi after NATO
deployed attack choppers for the first time.

Russia`s top diplomat, meanwhile, warned that the NATO
military operation in Libya was "sliding towards" a land
campaign, a prospect he said Moscow viewed as "deplorable."

"We are here today 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," Hague said in a statement.

Hague, accompanied by international development minister
Andrew Mitchell, was to meet with Mustafa Abdul Jalil, chief
of the rebel National Transitional Council, Britain`s Foreign
Office said.

Hague`s trip to the rebel capital of Benghazi came just
hours after British Apache helicopters attacked forces loyal
to Gaddafi in their first operations as part of the NAT0 air
campaign against the veteran strongman.

"Britain remains a strong and true friend of Libya,"
Hague said.

"We could not and did not turn a blind eye when Gaddafi
turned his forces against innocent civilians. For as long as
Gaddafi continues to abuse his people, we will continue and
intensify our efforts to stop him."

British Apache choppers and French Gazelles and Tigres
were deployed, the two countries said.

The British defence ministry said Apache helicopters had
yesterday night attacked a radar station and a checkpoint
operated by Gaddafi`s forces in the strategic oil town of
Brega, in eastern Libya.

PTI

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