Gaddafi's air force 'wiped out' - France

Paris - Nato-led bombardments have "wiped out" Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi's war planes and heavily depleted his army, France's defence minister said in comments made public on Tuesday.

"The air force seems to have been wiped out with 80% of its aircraft out of action and only helicopters left," minister Gerard Longuet said last week, according to a transcript of a Senate defence commission hearing.

"The army has suffered heavy losses with a third of its heavy equipment destroyed and about half of its munitions stocks," he added, in a summary of the strikes against Gaddafi's military sites since March 19.

"Only the navy has been spared, but that presents no great danger and its ships have stayed in port where they pose no threat. The anti-air defences have also been seriously hit."

Nato took over the command of the operations started by British, French and US forces aimed at curbing Gaddafi's assault in order to protect civilians in his battle with Western-backed rebels seeking to oust him.

Pressure piled on Gaddafi on Tuesday as his oil minister Shukri Ghanem appeared to have defected, Moscow issued a rebuke, Nato jets pounded Tripoli and a leading prosecutor sought his arrest for crimes against humanity.

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