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British government defends its role in Libya campaign

The comments follow a report which gave damning assessment of the 2011 intervention alongside France

Published: Updated:

The British government on Friday rejected criticism of its intervention in Libya, arguing its involvement saved civilian lives and claiming ISIS has been weakened in the country. The government’s comments follow a September report in which the parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee published a damning assessment of the 2011 intervention alongside France.

The report said London’s strategy was based on “erroneous assumptions and an incomplete understanding of the evidence,” accusing the government of selectively taking the threats of dictator Muammar Qaddafi at face value.

Also read: Qaddafi’s surviving cousin: France, US killed late Libyan leader

But in its response the government argued its actions “undoubtedly” saved civilian lives in Libya. “Qaddafi was unpredictable and had the means and motivation to carry out his threats. His actions could not be ignored, and required decisive and collective international action,” the government said in its written response.

Qaddafi was ousted and killed during the uprising and Britain was criticized by the Foreign Affairs Committee for expanding its mission to protect civilians to a policy of regime change, a charge rejected by the government.

“Our objective remained clear at all times: to protect civilians and to promote stability in Libya,” the government said, adding that it was “entirely appropriate” to target military sites after the Qaddafi regime failed to implement a ceasefire.

Also read: Is Cameron really to blame for the mess in Libya?

The 2011 bombing campaign came after Qaddafi loyalists pounded the eastern city of Benghazi, raising fears of an imminent massacre in the rebel stronghold. Britain’s then prime minister, David Cameron, was blamed in the report as “ultimately responsible for the failure to develop a coherent Libya strategy”.

He declined to give evidence to the Foreign Affairs Committee, which heard from key players including former defense minister Liam Fox and former prime minister Tony Blair. The government confirmed Blair had spoken to Qaddafi and said such efforts for a political solution “were unable to make progress”, dismissing the Committee’s claim that the government should have made better use of this direct line of communication.