UK Politics

Libya: Hague wants Nato to take lead 'quickly'

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Media captionWilliam Hague said "our action is saving lives... from the fate that otherwise awaited them"

Nato should take control of coalition operations in Libya "as quickly as possible", William Hague has said.

The foreign secretary told MPs that UK planes had taken part in fresh action over the past 24 hours to "robustly" enforce the no-fly zone across Libya.

But pro-Gaddafi forces were continuing "appalling" acts of violence and claims of a ceasefire were a "sham", he added.

Separately, Mr Hague has recalled most British embassy staff from Yemen as unrest in the country increases.

He said only "a small core" of consular staff would remain in the capital Sanaa after the authorities declared a state of emergency in the wake of violent clashes between security forces and protesters demanding President Ali Abdullah Saleh step down.

'Compelling case'

In an update to Parliament on the current situation in Libya, Mr Hague told MPs that UK, US and French attacks - which began on Saturday - had "comprehensively degraded" Libya's air defence infrastructure and that no Libyan military aircraft were flying.

The UK is part of a coalition implementing a UN resolution which calls for an immediate ceasefire, no-fly zone and a halt to attacks on civilians and authorises "all necessary measures", short of an "occupying force", to achieve this.

"The case for this action remains utterly compelling," Mr Hague told MPs.

"Appalling violence against Libyan citizens continues to take place exposing the regime's claims to have ordered a ceasefire to be an utter sham."

He also said he hoped Nato would take strategic control of the operation - led by the US, France and UK, but backed by a wider coalition, including Arab nations - in the near future.

"These coalition operations are currently under US command, but we want them to transition to Nato command and control as quickly as possible."

Fierce fighting between government and opposition forces is continuing in cities across Libya.

Image caption Mr Hague said 13 countries had now deployed aircraft to the region

Yemen unrest

As the security situation in Yemen deteriorates, Mr Hague urged all British citizens still in the country to leave without delay and urged the government and opposition to engage in dialogue after recent violence left 50 people dead.

Just a skeleton consular staff will remain ahead of demonstrations planned for Friday in the capital, Mr Hague announced.

"Commercial flights to and from Yemen are still operating, although this could clearly change," he added.

"Should there be further violence in Yemen, normal means of leaving, particularly through the commercial airport in Sanaa, could be blocked, and the ability to travel around Yemen will be severely restricted."

The foreign secretary also called on the Syrian government to show restraint following several deaths during clashes between protesters and security forces.

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