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UK: NATO not creeping toward Libya ground war

LONDON - British Prime Minister David Cameron insisted Thursday that NATO isn't edging toward the deployment of ground forces in Libya — despite the decision by several European nations to send military staff to assist rebel forces.

Italy, France and Britain are sending experienced combat advisers to help train and organize Libya's opposition forces as they struggle to loosen Muammar Qaddafi's grip on power.

Ministers have insisted the officers won't play any role in offensives against Qaddafi's troops — and have repeatedly insisted NATO and allies won't overstep boundaries set out in the United Nations resolutions authorizing action in Libya.

"The U.N. Security Council does limit us. We're not allowed, rightly, to have an invading army, or an occupying army," Cameron told BBC Scotland radio. "That's not what we want, that's not what the Libyans want, that's not what the world wants."

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Liam Fox, Britain's defense secretary, appeared to have raised the prospect of a greater role for international troops by comparing the conflict with international action in Afghanistan.

Fox said after talks in Italy on Wednesday that the situation was "not that different from what's happening in Afghanistan, where we've decided that training up security forces so that the Afghans themselves can look after their security is the best way forward."

Some British lawmakers have demanded Parliament be recalled from an Easter vacation to discuss the evolving mission, while an editorial in France's left-leaning Le Monde daily said on Thursday that French involvement in Libya also "merits debate."

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In talks on Wednesday with Mustafa Abdel-Jalil, the head of Libya's opposition council, French President Nicolas Sarkozy vowed that NATO would intensify its campaign of airstrikes.

"Voices are being raised on the other side of the English Channel against this 'mission creep' and reminding that the U.S. intervention in Vietnam half a century ago also began with the sending of military advisers," Le Monde said.

Cameron said that in telephone talks late Wednesday he had briefed President Barack Obama, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and Qatar's Prime Minister Sheik Hamad bin Jassim Al Thani on the role of the military advisers.

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Cameron also raised the prospect Thursday of a new round of international sanctions, including measures to specifically target Qaddafi's ability to generate revenue from oil sales.

"We need to step up the political pressure and the sanctions pressure, including on the oil money that Qaddafi is still getting," Cameron said.

Diplomats at the U.N. and European Union are tentatively discussing how to restrict the flow of money from oil sales to the Tripoli regime.

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Meanwhile, the Obama administration said Thursday that Qaddafi's government may be targeting Libyan civilians with cluster bombs, cautiously endorsing claims by rebels and human rights groups that the Libyan strongman's troops are using the indiscriminate weapon on the western city of Misrata.

Attacks by Qaddafi's forces have been deplorable, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said. Despite outlining more examples of what she termed Qaddafi's "inhumanity," Clinton refused to signal any new course for the United States to help anti-government forces in their war to end four decades of dictatorship.

"Col. Qaddafi's troops continue their vicious attacks, including the siege of Misrata," Clinton told reporters in Washington. "There are even reports that Qaddafi forces may have used cluster bombs against their own people."

Separately, in Prague, the Czech Republic's defense minister Alexandr Vondra said his country could not contribute more to NATO's military mission over Libya — despite the appeal from allies for extra help.

Meanwhile, a rebel leader claims that opposition forces have taken control of a post on the Tunisian border near a former rebel-held town.

The reported capture of the Dhuheiba border crossing could open important channels to the nearby desert town of Nalut, about 140 miles southwest of the capital Tripoli.

The town was in the hands of anti-government forces last month before Libyan troops moved in.

The rebel leader, Shaban Abu Sitta, says the border post was taken on Thursday after three days of intense battles with government soldiers outside Nalut.

The claim could not be independently verified. Muammar Qaddafi's forces have sharply restricted the movement of journalists in the areas they control in western Libya.

On Wednesday, two journalists were killed in Misrata amid continued shelling by Qaddafi force - Tim Hetherington, best known for co-directing the Oscar-nominated documentary on the Afghanistan war "Restrepo," and Chris Hondros, a photographer for Getty Images.

Around 1,000 migrant workers from North Africa, Bangladesh, Pakistan and other countries were being evacuated from Misrata aboard the Ionian Spirit after spending weeks trapped in the besieged city, reports CBS News correspondent Allen Pizzey.

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