Cameron was aware of secret mission in Libya: Hague

British PM David Cameron was aware that special commandos and Mi6 officers were to mount a secret mission in Libya, Foreign Secretary William Hague has said.

Last Updated: Mar 08, 2011, 11:30 AM IST

London: British Prime Minister David
Cameron was aware that special commandos and Mi6 officers were to mount a secret mission in Libya, Foreign Secretary William Hague has said.

Hague said Cameron knew about last week`s operation,
which ended in an embarrassing failure when British personnel
were held captive by Libyan opposition groups.

As the secret mission was condemned in the Commons as
"ill-conceived, poorly planned and embarrassingly executed", a
Whitehall blame-game broke out over the operation, the
Telegraph reported.

Guarded by Special Forces troops, British intelligence
officers last week arrived near Benghazi by helicopter as a
"pathfinder" exercise to prepare the ground for a larger
diplomatic delegation.

The secret mission failed when local Libyan forces put
the British personnel in "temporary detention". Drawing
laughter from MPs, Hague said that was caused by a "serious
misunderstanding" about their mission.

The prime minister has faced persistent criticism over
his handling of the Libyan crisis, and Labour said the botched
"diplomatic mission" has raised fresh questions about the
Government`s competence, the report said.=

Yesterday morning, Downing Street said that Hague was
responsible for the mission in the Benghazi area. Its version
of events caused anger in the Foreign and Commonwealth office,
where diplomats saw it as an attempt to shift blame.

Hague later told MPs that Cameron and other ministers
were privy to the secret operation. "The Prime Minister and
other colleagues were aware that we would attempt to put a
diplomatic team into eastern Libya," Hague said.

The foreign secretary said he took final
responsibility for the mission but insisted that the "timing
and details" were down to military commanders and Whitehall
officials.
Some critics have questioned the decision for the
officials to travel by helicopter in the early hours of Friday
morning, instead of making the short journey from central
Benghazi in the open.

"The timing and details of that are operational
matters decided by the professionals, but ministers must have
confidence in their judgments as I do and must take full
ministerial responsibility for their judgments and decisions,
as I do," Hague was quoted as saying by the Telegraph.

Sir Menzies Campbell, the former Liberal Democrat
leader, told Hague the failed mission had damaged Britain`s
international standing.

"I regret what I am about to say. Isn`t it clear that
this mission was ill-conceived, poorly planned and
embarrassingly executed.

"What is he going to do to restore the reputation of
the United Kingdom in relation to foreign policy in the Middle
East?" he said.

PTI