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Sweden releases Qaddafi aircraft pics

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Sweden releases Qaddafi aircraft pics
16:27 CEST+02:00
The Swedish Armed Forces have released photographs, which it claims indicates that Muammar Qaddafi still retains several fighter aircraft.

The fighter planes are reported to be standing at an airport in the capital Tripoli.

As the UN-backed Libya mission enters its second month, an opinion poll shows that Swedes are split on the issue of continuing involvement in the effort.

Anders Silwer of the Swedish air force said that the pictures show, that while Qaddafi is not using the planes, they remain intact while pointing out that probably pose no threat.

"There is probably a bomb crater made in the runway so that they can't be used."

They would otherwise have been bombed directly, he said.

Silwer explained that to ensure that the aircraft do not become serviceable again, close monitoring is required and argued that Sweden's contribution remains important in that respect.

"We are responsible for about a third of the intelligence resources accounted for by military aviation," he says.

The Armed Forces have previously only released a few individual photos from the Libya operation.

Questions emerged on Friday about how recently the pictures had been taken, with the Dagens Nyheter daily reporting that there were distinct similarities to the pictures in the Google Earth application.

Neither the armed forces nor Google were able to confirm to the newspaper when exactly the pictures were taken.

The Liberal Party defence policy makers Allan Widman however stated that there is no reason to doubt the Armed Forces' assessment that the pictures show Libyan air force assets.

"If it is Libyan air force, it is clear that as long as Gaddafi is in power, he will have or acquire such resources," Widman said.

Widman however did not want the pictures to be taken as evidence that the mandate for the Swedish Gripen planes to maintain the no-fly zone remained unfinished.

"That assessment has to be for the UN Security Council to do. And if it is felt that the mission is not complete then we should follow," he said.

The Swedish parliamentary mandate for the Libya deployment expires on July 1st.

Social Democrat leader Håkan Juholt has said he finds it very hard to imagine that the mandate would be extended, provoking a storm of criticism from the centre-right parties and from some fellow Social Democrats.

Swedish public opinion is divided on the issue, according to a survey published by Novus on Friday, with 43 percent supporting the withdrawal of the planes on July 1st.

Some 38 percent of Swedes supported extending the military operation, while the rest remained uncertain.

Novus interviewed 1000 people from May 5th to 10th.

The survey showed that Hakan Juholt had the support among the party's own supporters for his argument to bring the planes home, with 57 percent in favour, while 28 percent backed an extension after July 1st.

A majority of supporters of all the centre-right Alliance coalition parties are in favour of extending the mandate. Some 77 percent of Centre Party voters supported continuing the mission.

The least support for an extension of the mission is among supporters of the Left Party and Sweden Democrats, with a majority in favour of withdrawal.

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