PARIS: The French and Italian governments said on Wednesday that they would join Britain in sending a small number of military liaison officers to support the ragtag rebel army in Libya, offering a diplomatic boost for the insurgent leader, Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, as he met with President Nicolas Sarkozy in Paris.
After the meeting, Sarkozy pledged to intensify French airstrikes that started in March. The announcements came as the international community searched for a means to break a bloody battlefield deadlock that has killed hundreds in the contested cities of Misurata and Ajdabiya.
The decisions seemed to push the three countries closer toward the limits of the UNSC resolution in mid-March authorizing Nato airstrikes but specifically “excluding a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory.” But the promised deployments also seemed a tacit admission that almost five weeks of airstrikes have not been enough to disable Colonel Gaddafi’s troops and prevent his loyalists from threatening rebel forces and civilians.
The French government spokesman, François Baroin, told reporters on Wednesday that the number of military liaison officers would be in single digits and that their mission would be to help “organize the protection of the civilian population.” The British deployment could involve up to 20 advisers. William Hague, the British foreign secretary, said on Tuesday that the British advisers would help the makeshift rebel forces “improve their military organizational structures, communications and logistics.”
After meeting with the British defence secretary, Liam Fox, Italy’s defence minister, Ignazio La Russa, said 10 Italian instructors would also be sent to the rebels. Italy, France and Qatar are the only countries that have formally recognized the rebel administration.
Government ministers from all three countries stressed that they did not plan to send ground troops to support the rebels.