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Airstrikes pound Tripoli as NATO escalates Libya campaign

An increase in NATO strikes along with British and French commitment to deploy attack helicopters may be aimed at breaking a stalemate in the conflict.

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The US State Department's highest-ranking diplomat on Mideast affairs, Jeffrey Feltman, is currently in Benghazi to boost US solidarity with the opposition's interim government, the National Transitional Council (NTC).

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The visit was "another signal of the US's support" for the rebels National Transitional Council, according to a US statement. The NTC was "a legitimate and credible interlocutor for the Libyan people." Mr. Feltman on Tuesday invited the rebels to set up an office in Washington, but the US has yet to officially recognize the council, as an alternative leadership to Qaddafi's nearly 42-year rule, unlike Italy, France, and others.

Highly precise helicopters could help end stalemate

France, which has taken a lead role in supporting the rebels both diplomatically and militarily, on Monday announced that NATO would bringing attack helicopters to Libya, which – with better radar systems and the ability to identify targets at much closer range and in real time – could make a difference on the battlefield.

French defense chief Gerard Longuet said the French and British helicopters would be able to target pro-Qaddafi military hardware in urban settings, while limiting civilian casualties.

"There has been no doubt that the rebels have been unable to take advantage of what the airstrikes have been doing," Paul Beaver, a defense analyst in London, told the BBC World Service radio.

"The air campaign has been relatively successful, but what we know from Kosovo in 1999 is that you can't destroy every tank," said Mr. Beaver. "In Kosovo, we thought that 250 Serbian tanks had been destroyed, it turned out to be 13. We know already that NATO has attacked one particular tank [in Libya] more than five times, because they've been hoodwinked into it by Qaddafi forces lighting a little fire to make it look as if it's a vehicle that's got its engine running."

"Very clever things are being done," added Beaver, "which is why you need helicopters that can get in, and they are more discriminating than aircraft at 15,000 feet."

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