Africans worried by French arms for Libya rebels

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African leaders are concerned by French arms deliveries to Libyan rebels, fearing weapons could end up in the hands of terrorists, according to a top official.

Ahead of a two-day African Union (AU) summit here from Thursday, AU Commission chairman Juan Ping did not criticise France directly but said he was worried by weapons proliferation.

France acknowledged on Wednesday that it had begun dropping arms to rebels in Libya while NATO ally Britain said it would not follow suit over concerns about UN Security Council authorization.

"What worries us is not who is giving what," Ping said late Wednesday.

"It is simply that these weapons are being given by all parties to all the other parties. These weapons are already reaching Al-Qaeda, drug dealers and traffickers. They will be used to destabilise African states and to kidnap tourists for whom you pay ransom."

He said the arms deliveries could backfire on the governments who supply them.

"If these arms are found in the desert it is a problem for everybody, for you (Westerners) as well. The people who are being kidnapped (by terrorists) are Westerners," said Ping.

Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Magreb, the North African branch of the terror organisation, has been holding four French hostages since September last year as well as an Italian women kidnapped in February.

Two French journalists held for 18 months in Afghanistan arrived in France Thursday after being released by their Taliban captors.

© 2011 AFP

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