NATO commander says attack helicopters arrive "timely"

The commander of NATO's mission in Libya on Friday welcomed French and British helicopter contribution, saying it will ramp up the alliance's targeting power against Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

"I consider their arrival timely ... (They will provide) additional capability to pinpoint exactly those that are much more difficult to see from high altitude," Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard said via video conference from Naples, Italy.

The helicopters, with higher precision than fighter jets, will be operated under NATO's command and control, the commander said.

"We are still in the process of developing their capabilities. And they will be brought into action as soon as they are ready," he said.

The British government said Friday that it was ready to deploy attack helicopters in Libya along with France, which has confirmed the contribution of around a dozen Tiger helicopters.

In addition, the commander dismissed allegations that the alliance was to send ground forces in the conflicts in Libya.

"The helicopters are attack helicopters. They are not the type that do mass movement of troops on the ground. It is not my intention to put boots on the ground," he said.

[Source: Xinhua, Brussels, 27May11]

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