France supplies arms to Libyan rebels
FRANCE has begun supplying weapons to the Libyan rebels despite the UN arms embargo, and confirmed yesterday that it had dropped assault rifles in Nafusa, south-west of Tripoli.
A French military spokesman, Colonel Thierry Burkhard, said it had provided "light arms such as assault rifles" for civilian communities to "protect themselves against Gaddafi".
But the decision to arm the rebels is a further move towards involvement in the land war.
The Nafusa rebels have come the closest of any on the front line to breaking through to Tripoli.
'Le Figaro', the French newspaper which first reported the air drops, said the shipment included rifles, machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades, along with Milan anti-tank missiles.
"If the rebels can get to the outskirts of Tripoli, the capital will take the chance to rise against Gaddafi," it quoted an official as saying.
A rebel spokesman based in Abu Dhabi confirmed the drop but said it was not clear whether rebel forces or civilians were in possession of the weapons.
The air drop would appear to be in violation of the arms embargo. But Nato officials believe that the UN security council resolution 1973, which authorised the bombing campaign, allows for a wide range of actions in furtherance of the mission to "protect civilians". (©Daily Telegraph, London)