NATO denies bombing Libya's biggest oil field
NATO on Thursday denied bombing Libya's biggest oil field after accusations from Moamer Kadhafi's regime, saying fires at the Al-Sarir field were more likely to be linked to skirmishes in the region.
"The accusation by Colonel Kadhafi that NATO was responsible for fires in the Sarir Oil Fields is false," NATO said in a statement from its base in Naples which is overseeing military operations in Libya.
"Attacks last week by pro-Kadhafi forces have resulted in a number of skirmishes with anti-Kadhafi forces and at least one fire at an oil facility in the region of Sarir," the statement said.
As the war between government and rebel forces appeared to be developing into a stalemate, Libyan deputy foreign minister Khaled Kaim on Wednesday accused British warplanes of bombing the oil field in southeast Libya.
"British fighter bombers raided the Al-Sarir oil field, killing three guards at the site and wounding other people working at the field," Kaim said, adding that a pipeline linking Al-Sarir to Tobruk had been damaged in the attack.
Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, commander of the NATO mission, said that the alliance, acting under a UN mandate to protect civilians from Kadhafi's forces, had no reason to bomb the area.
"We have never conducted strike operations in this area because his forces were not threatening civilian populations from there," he said.
Bouchard said the blame for the fires at the oil field lay squarely with Kadhafi and was "a direct result of his attacks on his own people and infrastructure."
"The only one responsible for this fire is the Kadhafi regime and we know he wants to disrupt oil getting to Tobruk," he added.
© 2011 AFP