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Supporters of Libyan leader Colonel Gaddafi protest opposite Downing Street against the military action taken by the U.K., USA and France against Libya on March 21, 2011 in London, England. - 

Kai Ryssdal: Allied air strikes on Libya continued today. At a press conference from Chile, the second stop on his South American trip, President Obama said that within a matter of days -- not weeks -- the United States will let somebody else start leading the operations from the front. That prospect has Europeans questioning the likely length of the campaign against Libya and its eventual cost.

From Marketplace's European Desk in London, Stephen Beard reports.

Stephen Beard: Britain is taking part in the operation for political and humanitarian reasons. Prime Minister Cameron wants to avert a bloodbath on Europe's doorstep and to cut a dash on the world stage.

But Dan Plesch of the School for Oriental and African Studies says the prime minister must have his eye on commercial opportunities, too.

Dan Plesch: The financial hope is that for a few million pounds in missiles and air patrols, there will be a rapid change of regime and considerable payoff in oil and industrial contracts in the post-war regime.

But any hope of a swift and lucrative operation is likely to be dashed, says this defense analyst.

Charles Hayman: No-fly zones are costly. They have always cost a fortune. And this one, I'm afraid, is shaping up to cost a fortune as well.

Charles Hayman edits the defense website armedforces.co.uk. He says the no-fly zone will merely equalize the two sides of the conflict. A lengthy stalemate is likely to ensue at enormous cost to Britain.

Hayman: If you panned this out over a year, you may actually be talking about somewhere near a billion dollars.

And this when Britain is closing schools and hospitals in the steepest cuts in its public spending for a generation. Hayman supports the allied action over Libya on moral grounds, but he warns there will be a heavy financial price to pay.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.