British troops are on stand-by and ready to be deployed in Libya at 24-hours notice to help with humanitarian and evacuation operations.

The Ministry of Defence confirmed that a contingent of Scottish troops had been moved to an airbase in Wiltshire, south-west England. It stressed that they would have no combat role and be used only to assist with humanitarian aid such as organising food supplies and for emergency evacuations.

The move came amid reports of heavy fighting in an area close to Tripoli.

In a significant move, the British government was also reported to be planning to send an informal mission to Benghazi to establish contact with key rebel groups who now control the area. The mission would assess the strength of opposition groups and could even advise them, though officials insisted that at this stage no direct material support such as supplying weapons was planned.

“Having a presence on the ground allows us to get a better understanding about what's happening. It's about getting first-hand information and analysis,” an official told The Financial Times.

Although Prime Minister David Cameron's controversial plan for direct military intervention has been shot down by America and other NATO allies, media reports said the idea was still very much on the table. Planners were reported to be working on a range of options including “full-scale military action'' if the situation deteriorated.

Keywords: Libya crisis

More In: International | News