France confirms Libya arms drop
30 June 2011
France has confirmed that is has provided weapons to rebels fighting in Libya's ongoing civil war.
The weapons drops have opened the country up to the criticism that it could be in breach of an arms embargo established in UN Security Council Resolution 1970.
Colonel Thierry Burkhard told Agence France-Presse that the drops had included assault rifles and ammunition to support rebels and tribes in the Nafusa mountains south of Libyan capital Tripoli.
He said that heavier weapons such as the Milan anti-tank missile launcher had not been included in the drop.
"We began by dropping humanitarian aid: food, water and medical supplies," Col Burkhard said.
"During the operation, the situation for the civilians on the ground worsened. We dropped arms and means of self-defence, mainly ammunition."
The confirmation follows the publication of a story in French newspaper Le Figaro which claimed that France had dropped a wide variety of weapons to support the rebels and speed up progress against pro-Gaddafi forces.
Rebels from the Nafusa mountains are said to have advanced to within 50 miles of Tripoli in recent days, and have seized a major regime ammunition dump.
African Union Commission chairman Jean Ping said the decision to arm rebels could create problems in future.
"There are several problems: The risk of civil war, risk of partition of the country, the risk of Somalia-isation of the country, risk of having arms everywhere... with terrorism," said Ping. "These risks will concern the neighbouring countries."
China, however, did not directly criticise France, instead calling on countries to "strictly abide by the spirit of the relevant UN Security Council resolution and not take any actions that exceed the authority granted by that resolution".
"We have always urged a political solution to the current crisis in Libya, so that Libya returns to peace and stability as soon as possible," a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman said.
In the east of the country, rebel leaders in Benghazi had complained that fighters were fast running out of resources despite promises of over $1bn of loans from the international community.
Foreign Secretary William Hague has since confirmed that the first $100 million was been transferred to rebels in the last week.