France armed Libyan rebel fighters
FRANCE provided weapons, munitions and food to Libyan rebels in the Western Mountains in early June to prevent troops loyal to Moammar Gadhafi from overrunning the region, a military spokesman said yesterday.
Citing unidentified sources, Le Figaro newspaper said yesterday France had parachuted “large amounts” of weapons, including rocket launchers, assault rifles, machine guns and anti-tank missiles into the Jebel Nafusa region.
The move, it said, was an effort to give impetus to a rebel push toward Gadhafi’s stronghold in the Libyan capital Tripoli.
“There were humanitarian drops because the humanitarian situation was worsening and at one point it seemed the security situation was threatening civilians who could not defend themselves,” armed forces spokesman Thierry Burkhard said.
“France therefore also sent equipment allowing them to defend themselves, comprising light weapons and munitions,” he said, adding that the drop in early June had included medicine and food.
The rebellion against Gadhafi’s 41-year rule has made only slow progress since NATO-led countries began bombing three months ago, but rebels claim to finally be advancing closer to the Libyan capital.
Rebels based in the Western Mountains region southwest of the capital made their biggest breakthrough in weeks on Sunday to reach the town of Bir al- Ghanam, where they are now fighting pro- Gadhafi forces for control.
Le Figaro said France’s for any further assistance.
“We are getting our (military) means from other places,” Shammam said, without elaborating.
Until now, the rebels have been receiving weapons from Qatar in particular through its bastion in Benghazi to the east of the country.
Sarkozy has had a close relationship with the rebels since French planes struck first in Libya as part of a UNbacked mandate to protect civilians.