Italy wants to consider arming of Libya rebels

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Italy wants the international community to consider arming Libyan rebels under the UN resolution authorising the use of all means to defend civilians, the Italian foreign ministry spokesman said on Wednesday.

But Belgium's foreign minister said his country was opposed and that arms were not covered by UN Security Council Resolution 1973.

"The discussion about arming the rebels is definitely on the table ... to defend themselves," Italy's Maurizio Massari said on the sidelines of a meeting of an international contact group on the Libya conflict.

"The UN resolution ... does not forbid arming" the rebels fighting Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi's forces, he told reporters, while adding that a decision was unlikely to be taken at the meeting in the Qatari capital.

"We need to provide the rebels all possible defensive means," he said, singling out communication and intelligence equipment.

However, in an apparent rift between EU partners on Libya, Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere said: "The UN resolution speaks about protecting civilians, not arming them."

© 2011 AFP

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