France armed Libyan rebel fight­ers

Shanghai Daily - - WORLD -

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.


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