France Admits Arming Libyan Rebels
2011 07 01

By James Blitz in London and Peggy Hollinger in Paris ft.com



France has become the first member of Nato to state publicly that it has armed rebels fighting Muammer Gaddafi, the Libyan leader.

The French defence ministry said it parachuted weapons and ammunition early this month to rebels fighting about 100km south of Tripoli.

France and Britain, which are among the lead nations in Nato‘s Libya mission, had previously said the only military support they had given the rebels comprised non-lethal goods, such as communications equipment.

The two countries were forced to take this cautious approach because the UN mandate for their mission is limited to defending civilian populations from attack.


France’s announcement on Wednesday came after Le Figaro newspaper reported that Paris was providing rebels in the Jebel Nafusa mountains with “large amounts” of weapons, including “rocket launchers, assault rifles, machineguns and anti-tank missiles”.

The defence ministry sought to clarify the report, insisting that Paris only gave the rebels “equipment allowing them to defend themselves”.

However, the ministry acknowledged that this equipment comprised “light weapons and munitions”. Some defence experts said they suspected French supplies might well have been on the scale set out in the Le Figaro article.

They noted that the provision of weapons came at the start of significant advances by the rebels south of Libya’s capital.

Rebels in the area, many of whom are Berbers, have secured a vast region right up to the town of Gharian, which is held by Colonel Gaddafi’s forces.

British officials told the Financial Times that they had been aware for some weeks of France’s decision to supply the rebels in the Jebel Nafusa with arms.

“I am surprised the French have gone public on this,” an official said.

Rebels fighting in the west of Libya have received weapons from abroad this year, getting supplies from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Nato officials said the Berbers had not been short of offensive arms.

“The French move needs to be put in context because equipment is not the game changer,” said a senior UK defence official. “There are all sorts of things holding back the rebels in Jebel Nafusa, such as a desire to fight.”

However, France’s supply of arms indicates that the French and British increasingly see the assault on Tripoli, in west Libya, by rebels as the best chance of beating the Gaddafi regime.

“The fighting in the east certainly sucks up Gaddafi’s available forces but it is not the centre of gravity in the conflict,” said the UK defence official.

“The Berbers have been better organised and done a lot more fighting.” Some Nato officials said France’s admission that it was supplying arms could lead to debate inside Nato over whether more should be done on this scale.

“There are many people who think the time has come to get serious,” said an official at Nato headquarters in Brussels. “The fact that the French are prepared to let the news media know they are doing this kind of thing reflects that.”

Source: ft.com



Related Articles
Report: Egypt arming Libyan rebels
Arms trade: UK dealers accused of selling Soviet weapons to blacklisted countries


Latest News from our Front Page

Sweden’s submarine war against Germany – Rear-Admiral confesses to armed robbery
2014 04 15
On April 8, 2014, Swedish combat forces stormed the HQ of German submarine builder Thyssen’s offices in Sweden and walked away with blueprints for the next generation submarine A26. Immediately after the event, the head of security at Thyssen was fired. Aside one or two initial reports about what in effect was an armed robbery, a blanket of silence has been put ...
Black Ring Above England: New Evidence
2014 04 15
New explanations for the ’black ring’ as seen in England this week have been submitted by members since we highlighted the case. [Experts baffled after strange black ring appears in sky above England] As otherworldly a phenomenon it seems to be, it’s almost certainly due to very worldly reasons. Officials are still stumped as to the origin of the ring as recorded by ...
Sars Research Lab Loses 2,000 Tubes of Killer Virus
2014 04 15
A prestigious research institute in France said it had lost thousands of tubes of samples of the deadly Sars coronavirus. A routine inventory check at Paris’ Pasteur Institute revealed that 2,349 tubes containing fragments of the virus responsible for the deaths of 774 people in 2002 were missing, the centre named after French chemist Louis Pasteur said. The institute was quick to ...
10 odd facts about Abraham Lincoln’s assassination
2014 04 15
It was 149 years ago tonight the President Abraham Lincoln was shot while watching a play at Ford’s Theater. Lincoln died the next morning, and in the aftermath, some odd facts seemed to pop up. Why wasn’t General Ulysses S. Grant in the theater box with Lincoln, as scheduled? Where was the President’s bodyguard? How many people were targeted in ...
Dag Hammarskjöld Assassination: Plane may have been shot down
2014 04 15
Newly declassified 1961 cable called for grounding of Belgian mercenary hours after UN secretary general crashed in Africa Hours after a plane carrying the UN secretary general, Dag Hammarskjöld, crashed over central Africa in September 1961, the US ambassador to Congo sent a cable to Washington claiming that the aircraft could have been shot down by a Belgian mercenary pilot. In the ...
More News »