Britain's government defended itself on Friday against criticism that it has been slow to react to the Libyan crisis and that sharp military spending cuts have eroded its ability to respond.
The nine-month-old coalition has been plunged into a politicaly damaging row after Britons stranded in Libya and their families complained that British officials had ignored their requests for help or starved them of information.
British oil workers, fearful of armed looters, have appealed to London to rescue them from remote Libyan desert camps.
The opposition Labour Party has seized on the chance to embarrass Prime Minister David Cameron, saying Britain lagged behind other nations in evacuating its citizens from Libya, which has been torn by violence after a revolt against Muammar Gaddafi's 41-year rule.
"Mr Cameron's got to get a grip on the way this government works," Labour leader Ed Miliband said, accusing the government of incompetence on the issue.
Labour said the crisis showed Britain needed to rethink its defence needs after Britain's only fully operational aircraft carrier and Harrier fast jets were scrapped in last year's defence review to help curb Britain's big budget deficit.
HMS Cumberland, a Navy frigate that has helped evacuate Britons from Libya, is also due to be axed soon.
Alan West, a security minister in the former Labour government and a former Navy chief, said it would have been "wonderful" to have an aircraft carrier to send to Libya to help with evacuations or to project force.
Cameron, just back from a tour of the Gulf, took charge of Britain's response on Friday, ordering a Navy destroyer to the region and pledging to do all he could to evacuate about 170 British oil workers still stranded in the Libyan desert.
The government has gone into overdrive to rebut the accusations of tardiness, saying it had helped 450 British nationals leave Libya on chartered planes or a Navy ship.
Cameron has apologised about the delays and the government has ordered a review of its evacuation procedures.
Nevertheless, more relatives of stranded British oil workers complained on Friday about unhelpful government officials.
"I feel so let down by the government and the information that's been there," Janette Jennison, whose oil worker partner is stranded in Libya, told the BBC.
Defence Secretary Liam Fox insisted Britain had "the right military assets in place" to help with the evacuation.
The United States has said a no-fly zone over Libya is an option. If it is agreed, Britain could be asked to help.
ReutersGüncelleme Tarihi: 26 Şubat 2011, 12:22