France denies giving Libya rebels anti-tank missiles

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The French military on Thursday denied supplying anti-tank missiles to rebels fighting Libyan Moamer Kadhafi's regime, though it admitted parachuting light arms to them.

"No Milan anti-tank missiles have been parachuted into Jebel Nafusa," a region southeast of Tripoli, France's top military spokesman Thierry Burkhard said, referring to earlier reports.

Le Figaro newspaper and a well-placed non-government source said France dropped several tonnes of arms including Milan anti-tank missiles and light armoured vehicles.

Burkhard said France had only supplied "light arms" including machine guns and rocket launchers.

He had said on Wednesday that French officials had delivered small arms while carrying out humanitarian aid operations to help local populations under threat from Kadhafi's troops.

"It appeared that in certain zones the security situation was extremely tense for these undefended populations," so France gave them "the means to defend themselves, light arms and ammunition," he added Thursday.

France's ambassador to the United Nations said Wednesday the delivery of arms to rebels did not breach the UN resolution that mandated intervention to protect civilians, which also established an embargo on arms to Libya.

Article 4 of Resolution 1973 specified that allowances to the arms embargo can be allowed if in the interest of protecting civilians.

© 2011 AFP

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