British PM does not rule out arming Libyan rebels
British Prime Minister David Cameron refused Wednesday to rule out arming Libyan rebels fighting Moamer Kadhafi's forces, as world powers debated whether to supply the opposition with weapons.
Asked in parliament what Britain's policy was on arming the rebels, given the existence of a United Nations arms embargo on Libya, Cameron replied: "We do not rule it out but we have not taken the decision to do so."
He said UN resolutions under which an international coalition has imposed a no-fly zone and an arms embargo on Libya do not necessarily rule out arming the rag-tag rebels battling the Kadhafi regime.
"The legal position is clear, that the arms embargo applies to the whole territory of Libya," Cameron told lawmakers in the House of Commons.
"But at the same time UNSCR (UN Security Council Resolution) 1973 allows all necessary measures to protect civilians and civilian-populated areas, and our view is that this would not necessarily rule out the provision of assistance to those protecting civilians in certain circumstances."
Cameron also confirmed that British forces were in action again overnight Tuesday to enforce the UN resolution on Libya.
"The coalition took action yesterday against regime forces harassing civilian vessels trying to get into Misrata" in western Libya, he said.
"And yesterday and overnight the RAF flew 24 sorties. Tornado aircraft destroyed artillery and an armoured fighting vehicle near Sirte."
US President Barack Obama said late Tuesday that he did not rule out arming Libyan rebels.
"I'm not ruling it out. But I'm also not ruling it in. We're still making an assessment partly about what Khadhafi's forces are going to be doing," Obama said in the interview with NBC.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had earlier said although UN sanctions prohibit the delivery of arms to Libya, resolution 1973 overrode those.
After an international conference on Libya in London on Tuesday, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said France was prepared to hold discussions on arming the rebels and said it would not rule out the option.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on Wednesday said Moscow believed that foreign powers did not have the right to arm the rebels under the mandate approved by the UN Security Council.
© 2011 AFP