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British report British report
by Euro Reporter
2011-06-05 10:19:25
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Britain deploys top diplomat, helicopters to Libya

British Foreign Minister William Hague flew to Benghazi on Saturday to meet rebels fighting to oust Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi 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 as warplanes again blasted the capital Tripoli. “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 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 Gadhafi in their first operations as part of the NATO 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 Gadhafi turned his forces against innocent civilians. For as long as Gadhafi 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 earlier.

The British defence ministry said Apache helicopters had on Friday night attacked a radar station and a checkpoint operated by Gadhafi’s forces in the strategic oil town of Brega, in eastern Libya. A spokesman for France’s military chiefs, Thierry Brukhard, said the copters destroyed about 20 targets and drew light arms fire from forces on the ground but were not damaged. In its latest operational update released on Saturday, NATO said it had hit a military camp and three command and control nodes in and around Brega, 240 kilometres (150 miles) southwest of rebel-held Benghazi. “Attack helicopters under NATO command were used for the first time,” the military alliance said in a statement that listed vehicles, military equipment and fielded forces as the targets struck. The attacks were launched as part of the aerial campaign to protect Libyan civilians from Gadhafi’s forces in line with a UN resolution that barred ground troops. “We welcome any action that could precipitate the end of (Moammar) Gadhafi’s regime,” Jalil told reporters in Benghazi.


Assange attacks middle-brow Britain

The tough talking founder of Wikileaks has hit out at the UK, claiming he "detests" the country's "mid-brow squeamishness". Internet activist Julian Assange was a surprise late addition to the programme at the Hay Festival of Literature in mid Wales. More than 400 people paid £15 a head to sit in at the sell-out interview session with the controversial Australian.

Assange described himself as a "colonial cousin" but quickly turned to criticising the UK's attitude to radical change. His words came after he had revealed to the audience that Wikileaks habitually destroys all record of its sources. "The only way to make sure you have no secrets is to not collect any in the first place," he told the audience. He went on to hail the pro-democracy revolution in Egypt, adding: "What I really detest about the UK is there is a certain mid-brow squeamishness in the population.

"It would rather destroy an entire revolution, and keep a country in dictatorship, than risk being blamed for the tiniest thing." He went on to contrast the UK's attitude with how things are done at Wikileaks. "We are certainly willing to take flak," he said. "We are not squeamish and we will not condemn a nation to dictatorship simply because we are aware of a certain cloying middle class squeamishness view in the UK."


Is George Osborne losing his grip on Britain's economic recovery?

By the main road through Longbridge, the former West Midlands home of MG Rover, the last British-owned, British-based mass production car manufacturer, there is a large, implausible sign promising 10,000 jobs, new homes, local amenities, a sustainable community and public open spaces. Six years after Rover's collapse, there is certainly plenty of open space at the centre of this formerly thriving town: hundreds of acres of flattened muddy fields where 6,000 skilled workers once toiled. But that's about it. There are few jobs or new homes and there is even less hope, in what many regard as a "dying community".

"To be honest, I can't see the point of even building new homes," said Gemma Cartwright, 34, a mother of four whose husband worked in MG Rover's paintshop number three. "There are no jobs really and all the signs are that there won't be in the future.”After Longbridge closed most people went into the public sector, retrained to work in hospitals or in care. Then the recession came, some lost their jobs, then in March more job cuts arrived as the government cut spending. Even those who didn't lose their jobs were so concerned they would lose everything, their livelihoods, their homes, that they were left nervous wrecks and on pills.

"My husband has lost his job about four times since he left Longbridge and he took a university degree to better his chances. The property developer which owns the Longbridge site is trying: there is a new college and an innovation centre. But really what chance do people have? Everyone is worried for the future." It wasn't meant to be like this. When George Osborne delivered his "emergency" budget last June, he believed that sating the desire of the all-powerful bond markets for a credible cuts strategy was his overriding goal. That would prevent a crisis of confidence among investors, driving up interest rates and choking off the recovery. At the same time, slashing Whitehall budgets would fulfil some of the Conservatives' long-held goals of lessening the state's hold on the economy and freeing up businesses to generate economic growth.

By now, the chancellor and his cabinet colleagues hoped that the economic upturn would be well entrenched, allowing them the political space to concentrate on complex issues such as health reform, and potentially opening up the possibility of pre-election tax cuts in two or three years' time. But, so far at least, Osborne's medicine has not worked. The latest GDP figures show an economy that has been flat-lining – "on a plateau," as the Office for National Statistics puts it – for six months. Meanwhile, the Bank of England's ability to provide any extra help has been hampered by the surge in international commodity prices, which has sent inflation soaring to 4.5%. Within Whitehall, a worried murmuring has become audible. For a year, since delivering his emergency budget, Osborne has held the line: there would be no retreat from the radical programme to eliminate the UK's structural deficit within the lifetime of one parliament. But even some former supporters in the City are beginning to get cold feet. When the independent Office for Budget Responsibility began its work a year ago, it forecast economic growth of 2.6% to 2.8% – around the economy's long-run average. Today, the Treasury would be happy with 1.5% to 2%.

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