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Libyan air force significantly degraded: US

Washington: Libyan air force`s capabilities have been significantly degraded as a result of the air strikes by coalition forces, a top American commander said on Tuesday, as Muammar Gaddafi`s military assets were targetted for a fourth day.

Admiral Samuel J Locklear III, Commander, US Naval Forces Europe and Africa, said the objectives of the airstrikes were was to degrade the effectiveness of Libya`s remaining air force assets.

"I believe that we have done that, and we have not seen any significant movement of those forces," Locklear said.

But, he added that Gaddafi and his forces are still using military force against the civilian population.

"We have good indication that our air strikes were very effective, and I am completely confident that the air force of Colonel Gadhafi will not have a negative impact on the coalition and that we will be able to manage if there were anything that we didn`t see or that we didn`t able to influence by our initial campaign that we`d be able to manage that," he said.

Gaddafi, however, was effectively employing a tactical air force, a helicopter air force of the order of several dozen, rather than large numbers, said Locklear, who is also the commander of Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn, the task force established to provide operational and tactical international response to the unrest in Libya and to enforce UN Security Council Resolution 1973.

"When we began this, my estimation that his (Gaddafi) air force was generally in good repair compared to most…

what you would consider most world standards for air forces.

"He had a lot of equipment that was aged. Much of it was parked in the runways and could not be used," he said.

Speaking over telephone abroad USS Mount Whitney, Locklear said 13 nations that are either already there or moving forces in this direction.

"Together, we have formed a partnership to support international responses to this crisis.

"Today, in the area of our responsibility, our coalition has multiple ships and submarines, highlighted by the French aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, Italian aircraft carrier Garibaldi, and the amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge," he said.

Following initial operations in Benghazi by France, the UK and the US cruise missile attacks accompanied by significant coalition air strikes rendered Gaddafi`s long-range air defenses and his air force largely ineffective, thus enabling the coalition to establish a no-fly zone and opening the door for international and nongovernmental organisation humanitarian assistance efforts.

"We continue to expand the effectiveness of our coalition no-fly zone and our other coalition capabilities.

It`s my judgement, however, that despite our successes to date, that Gaddafi and his forces are not yet in compliance with the United States Security Council resolution, due to the continued aggressive actions his forces are taking against the civilian population of Libya," Locklear said.

The US-led coalition is conducting a wide range of operations across Libya.

"I`m not going to talk about the specifics of those, but certainly the 32nd Brigade (of the Libyan forces) is always considered in the calculation of how we expand the no-fly zone and how we conduct operations in the future," he said.

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