Cameron ‘optimistic’ over Libya progress

By Alex Stevenson

David Cameron offered an upbeat assessment of the situation in Libya as he met with the new Libyan charge d'affaires in No 10 earlier.

Mahmud Nacua was being welcomed by the prime minister after the British government switched its diplomatic recognition from Muammar Gaddafi's beleaguered administration to the Benghazi-based National Transitional Council.

"I think this is a moment not to be complacent at all, but optimistic that we are getting closer to the future that many of us talked about round that table downstairs in the Cabinet Office," Mr Cameron said.

"It has taken time but I think we are heading in the right direction."

Libyan rebels have reportedly made significant progress against forces loyal to Colonel Gaddafi in recent days, making advances in the towns of Gharyan and Zawiya, where a strategically important oil refinery has been captured.

Shortly before Mr Cameron's meeting he spoke to the chair of the NTC, Abdul Jallil. They agreed that the NTC's respect for human rights and the rule of law across Libya would be an important part of demonstrating that they represent a better future for the country, Downing Street said.

Mr Cameron also spoke to French president Nicolas Sarkozy. The pair agreed that "we are edging closer to the day when the Libyan people will be free to choose their own future".

British forces have been contributing to Nato's military campaign in support of the rebels against Col Gaddafi's forces.

In the last two days RAF aircraft have destroyed a military staging post near Zlitan, a commando base in Sabratah and a "psychological warfare centre" near Lepcis Magna.

On late Wednesday afternoon an RAF patrol identified a force of pro-Gaddafi troops who had been fighting at the Zawiya oil refinery and were attempting to redeploy in a small tugboat along the coast.

"Since it was clear from their actions that these troops continued to pose a threat to the local population, the RAF patrol engaged the ship," Major General Nick Pope said.

"Although a challenging target, small and under way at sea, a direct hit was scored with a laser guided Paveway bomb which sank the vessel."