BY Ray Fleming

IT would not be surprising to learn that President Obama's relative detachment from the Libyan and Israeli-Palestininan problems in recent weeks has been in part because of his preoccupation with the planning of the 40-minute assault on Osama bin Laden's Pakistan hide-out which was successfully carried out on Sunday night. It must have been in his mind that a comparable military mission in 1980, to free American hostages from imprisonment in Tehran, ended in failure and humiliation. The unilateral nature of the dispatch of bin Laden will probably leave residual problems for Mr Obama in Pakistan; understandably, the government there was not told about America's plans, but there will be a price to pay.

However, it is to be hoped that Mr Obama will now find some time to look at the situation in Libya which seems to be approaching stalemate. NATO lacks the type of aircraft needed for precision bombing in densely populated towns.

It made political sense for America to reduce its role once Benghazi had been saved from Gaddafi's forces but a modest increase in its involvement now would provide a new impetus that the campaign needs. As for the Israel-Palestine situation there is an urgent need for the United States to set an example to Israel by refraining from criticism of the Fatah-Hamas reconciliation, at least until all its provisions are known.