International forces will not arm Libya rebels: Britain

27th March 2011, Comments 0 comments

The coalition of international forces taking military action in Libya will not arm rebels fighting Moamer Kadhafi's forces, British defence minister Liam Fox said on Sunday.

Supplying weapons to the ragtag band of rebels to take on the superior firepower of Kadhafi's troops would be in breach of a UN arms embargo, he said.

"We are not arming the rebels, we are not planning to arm the rebels," Fox told BBC television from a NATO meeting in Brussels, where the alliance looked set to take command of military operations against the Libyan leader.

There was a UN arms embargo across the whole of the North African country and "we have to accept that," he added.

His comments came after Britain's Sunday Times newspaper reported that London and its allies were drawing up plans to arm the Libyan rebels to speed up Kadhafi's defeat, citing defence sources.

Britain is one of several countries taking part in the intervention under a UN resolution to enforce a no-fly zone and protect the civilian population.

Fox further said that recent advances made by Libyan rebels along the coast meant they may be poised to seize control of all the country's oil exporting capacity, which could lead to a "very different dynamic."

"As they move round the coast, of course, the rebels will increasingly control the exit points of Libya's oil and if they continue to move round that coast from Brega round to Ras Lanuf on the coast, it means they will pretty much be in control of all Libya's oil exports," he said.

"That will produce a very different dynamic and a very different equilibrium inside Libya. How that will play out in terms of public opinion and the Kadhafi regime remains to be seen."

After almost losing their eastern stronghold city of Benghazi before coalition air strikes began on March 19, the rebels are now rapidly pushing westwards.

In their latest successes, they wrested back control of key oil town Ras Lanuf and captured a hamlet 50 kilometres (30 miles) west called Bin Jawad, AFP correspondents reported.

© 2011 AFP

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