Sunday 23 July 2017

Rebels forced to retreat as Gaddafi troops in fightback

Thomas Harding in London

THE Libyan rebels are such a poorly-organised force that they cannot defeat Colonel Gaddafi without arms or training on the ground, it was claimed last night.

David Cameron yesterday admitted that the British government was now considering arming rebel groups following talks in London with opposition leaders.

In a separate development last night the British foreign office confirmed that Libyan Foreign Minister Musa Kusa had travelled to Britain and said he was resigning his post. Meanwhile, Whitehall sources have disclosed that there is growing concern over the plight of Libyan rebel forces, who were yesterday forced to retreat again and surrendered in five towns in the face of heavy resistance from troops loyal to the Gaddafi regime.

However, there are concerns that any move to arm rebel forces could lead to so-called "mission creep" with western forces dragged in to providing support in the ongoing civil war.

The UN or EU may ultimately have to send a humanitarian force to Libya to help civilians in rebel-held areas.

There is growing concern among British and other governments that the rebel troops will not be able to advance on major Libyan cities without external help.

Mr Cameron, and the American and French presidents have begun considering the possibility of arming the rebels because Libyan troops are understood to be using "civilian cars" to travel around the country, making air strikes increasingly difficult.

Yesterday, Mr Cameron said that Britain was not "ruling out" arming the rebels -- despite previously indicating that this may not be possible under the terms of an arms sanction imposed on Libya.

He said: "It is an extremely fluid situation but there is no doubt in anyone's mind the ceasefire is still being breached and it is absolutely right for us to keep up our pressure under UN Security Council 1973.

"As I've told the House the legal position is clear that the arms embargo applies to the whole territory of Libya.

"But at the same time UNSCR 1973 allows all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas.

Assistance

"Our view is that this would not necessarily rule out the provision of assistance to those protecting civilians in certain circumstances.

"We do not rule it out but we have not taken the decision to do so."

Mr Cameron's statement echoes comments made by US president Barack Obama in a TV interview on Tuesday.

He said: "I'm not ruling it out, but I'm also not ruling it in. We're still making an assessment partly about what Gaddafi's forces are going to be doing."

Reports suggest that rebel forces lack training, discipline and leadership.

There are many groups of volunteers and decisions are often made only after heated arguments.

When they advance it is often without proper protection for their flanks. (© Daily Telegraph, London)

Irish Independent

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