France and Britain are poised to escalate their costly and unpopular military meddling in Libya by deploying attack helicopters there, the French government said on Monday.
But British Armed Forces Minister Nick Harvey told MPs today that the British government had taken no such decision.
Gung-ho French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet told a European Union meeting on Monday that Britain would join France in deploying attack helicopters in crowded urban areas where the Libyan army is battling Western-backed rebels.
Mr Longuet claimed the choppers would kill fewer civilian casualties than war planes.
He said he had discussed the plan with British military officials and that they were "exactly on the same wavelength."
Mr Longuet insisted that the use of the attack helicopters against Libyan government forces would fall within the UN mandate under which Nato is attacking Libya.
But British MPs expressed concern over "mission creep" in attacks on the oil-rich country.
"Parliament hasn't written the government a blank cheque on Libya," Labour defence spokesman Jim Murphy said
"It would be a serious escalation if such a commitment of helicopters were to be made."
Mr Harvey denied that the Con-Dem coalition had agreed to sending in the aircraft yet.
"It is an option which we are considering and at some point in the future we may get to the point of deciding to go down this route."
He rejected conservative estimates that the austerity-obsessed coalition's involvement in the Libya war would cost the British taxpayer £1 billion by September, but he failed to give a different figure.
Chancellor George Osborne's claim in the Commons on March 22 that the war would cost Britain something "in the order of tens of millions of pounds" is now totally discredited.
The International Committee of the Red Cross says the war could drag on through the end of the year and it will need another £33 million if that happens.
Its deputy head of operations for north and west Africa said on Monday that the money would boost its current budget to £54m to ease problems caused by the conflict.
Georgios Georgantas estimated that 850,000 people will need its help there by the end of 2011.
If you appreciated this article then please consider donating to the Morning Star's Fighting Fund to ensure we can keep developing your paper.
Fire Minister Brandon Lewis probably had a fair idea what Sir Ken Knight would deliver when he asked him to conduct an "independent" report into fire and rescue services in England.
As LGBT activists worldwide celebrate anti-homophobia day we are reminded of prevailing prejudice
Bradford has seen the launch of a new campaign to battle the sources of child sex exploitation - and combat far-right bids to make it a racial issue