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Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Libya conflict 'could turn into another Iraq': Fears grow over lack of a clear exit strategy

The public are concerned that Britain could be dragged into 'another Iraq' style war in Libya, a survey has found.
Prime Minister David Cameron has insisted that military action against Colonel Gaddafi is 'not another Iraq' and has so far avoided committing ground troops.
But as airstrikes against the dictator continue into their second week the strategy for removing Gaddafi is beginning to come under scrutiny.
Seven out of ten people fear that the military action could result in Britain being stuck in a 'prolonged conflict like the Iraq war', a poll for the Independent found.
A further 24 per cent were at ease with the action and 5 per cent of the 1,000 people questioned had not made up their minds.
The findings will put added pressure on the Prime Minister to plan a clear exit strategy when he meets with other world leaders in London today.
Mr Cameron will reject a plan by Italy and Germany to let the tyrant go into exile and dodge war crimes charges. He believes that the embattled leader should stand trial for the alleged murders of thousands of his people.
MI6 officials and the SAS are understood to be in close contact with Libyan opposition leaders as the 'endgame' for Gaddafi's regime is plotted.
But the Prime Minister is still facing calls from MPs within his party who want to ensure that Britain leaves Libya as quickly as possible.
'Our MPs are supportive of going in but there is anxiety about being stuck there for a long time,' one senior Tory MP told the Independent.
Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi Iraqi President Saddam Hussein
Similarities: Seven in 10 people believe the prolonged conflict in Iraq caused by Saddam Hussein, 
left, could be repeated with Gaddafi, right
The survey found that the public were divided about whether the Government was right to commit forces to Libya with 43 per cent backing the action and 47 per cent against.
The largest chunk of support came from Conservative voters, 58 per cent of whom backed air strikes. Only 46 per cent of Labour voters agreed with intervention and 45 per cent of Lib Dems.
Most of those who were worried about being sucked into a long conflict like Iraq were Labour voters, with 77 per cent voicing their fears.Sixty-seven per cent of Tory supporters shared the concerns, as did 70 per cent of Lib Dems.
Despite the findings, 46 per cent believed coalition forces would be justified in hunting down Gaddafi and targeting him in bombings.
And similarly, the poll commissioned by ComRes found that 68 per cent of the public believed that the action showed that the defence budget should not be cut.
Smoke: Libyan rebels progress westward from Bin Jawad towards Moamer Gaddai's home town of Sirte as coalition air strikes continued
Smoke: Libyan rebels progress westward from Bin Jawad towards Moamer Gaddai's home town of Sirte as coalition air strikes continued
The outcome of the airstrikes will be crucial as to how Mr Cameron's premiership is viewed. Many believe that the Iraq war was the downfall of Tony Blair and if the Libyan conflict becomes as unfavourable with the public Mr Cameron could suffer a similar downturn in public opinion.
Recent popularity poll put Labour at 41 per cent, six points ahead of the Conservatives at 35 per cent and a long stretch ahead of flailing Lib Dems at just 11 per cent.
But with a number of years before the next election and an impending referendum on voting reform there could still be significant changes, particularly in response to how the Libyan conflict plays out.
The findings of the survey come as Libyan forces yesterday continued to push West towards the capitol Tripoli.
Claims that they had taken Gaddafi's home town on Sunday night could bot be confirmed.
Rebels leaders will meet with world leaders in London today to discuss the future of the country.

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