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MoD spends 1.3 mln a month to house Libya forces

LONDON, Aug 7 (KUNA) -- The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) is spending 1.3 million pounds a month on accommodation for personnel stationed in Italy while they carry out air strikes on Libya, official figures disclosed Sunday.
About 1,000 members of British forces - largely RAF pilots and support crews - are currently deployed to four different parts of Italy as part of the Nato campaign against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's regime.
Putting them up has cost an average of approximately 1,315,000 pounds a month since the first bombing raids were launched in March, the MoD said in response to a Freedom of Information request.
This includes 1.1 million pounds a month on accommodation in Gioia del Colle in south-eastern Italy, 125,000 pounds in Trapani on the western tip of Sicily, 30,000 pounds in Poggio Renatico in the north, and 60,000 pounds in the southern port of Naples.
The RAF has Tornado and Typhoon fighter jets based at Gioia del Colle air base, and air-to-air refuelling tankers and surveillance aircraft stationed on Sicily.
Poggio Renatico is home to one of Nato's Combined Air Operations Centres, and the headquarters of the coalition's mission against Gaddafi is located in Naples.
The MoD said meals for personnel deployed to Italy were being provided by a military catering team in theatre but their cost has not been calculated separately.
The department cited security grounds for refusing to name the hotels where British personnel are staying.
Critics of the government's defence cuts have claimed that the UK's operations against Gaddafi would have cost much less if the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal and its Harrier jump jets had not been scrapped.
Last June, the head of the Royal Navy Admiral Sir Mark Stanhope said elements of the campaign would have been cheaper and "much more reactive" if Ark Royal was available.
Harrier jets could have been deployed to Libya in 20 minutes rather than the 90 minutes taken to send Tornados and Typhoons from Gioia del Colle, he pointed out.
Responding to criticism about the cost of hotels for RAF personnel stationed in Italy, the MoD said, back in April, that it was investigating alternative accommodation options in an attempt to reduce costs.(end) he.wsa KUNA 071247 Aug 11NNNN