Russia: Arming Libya Rebels Is “Crude Violation”

July 7, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Lutfi Abu-Aun

2011-07-06T202351Z_158716080_GM1E7770CEB01_RTRMADP_3_LIBYA

Head of the rebel forces Abdel Fattah Younes gestures as he arrives at Green Square in the Kish, Benghazi July 6, 2011, to demonstrate against Muammar Gaddafi and his regime. 

REUTERS/Esam Al-Fetori

TRIPOLI (Reuters) – Russia accused France on Thursday of committing a “crude violation” of a U.N. weapons embargo by arming Libyan rebels, while Washington said it was acting legally, creating a new diplomatic dispute over the Western air war.

France confirmed on Wednesday that it had air-dropped arms to rebels in Libya’s Western Mountains, becoming the first NATO country to acknowledge openly arming the insurgency against Gaddafi’s 41-year rule.

France, Britain and the United States are leading a three-month-old air campaign which they say they will not end until Gaddafi falls. The war has become the bloodiest of the “Arab Spring” uprisings sweeping North Africa and the Middle East.

Rebels acknowledged French support, saying it had helped sustain them in the region.

“There should be no doubt that Libyans in the Nafusa Mountain (Western Mountains) area are alive and safe today thanks to a combination of heroic Libyan bravery and French wisdom and support,” Vice Chairman Abdul Hafeedh Ghoga of the Transitional National Council said in a statement of thanks to French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Though rebel advances have been slow, the insurgents scored a success in the region on Sunday in pushing to the outskirts of Bir al-Ghanam, within 80 km (50 miles) of Tripoli.

On Thursday the rebels surveyed the strategic town from a ridge overlooking the desert plateau that leads to the capital, in preparation for a possible attack. A Reuters journalist with them said they were waiting for NATO airstrikes to help them.

Libyan television broadcast a statement from tribal leaders condemning Sarkozy over the arms, calling the rebels in the Berber area “a product of France.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow “asked our French colleagues today whether reports that weapons from France were delivered to Libyan rebels correspond with reality.”

“If this is confirmed, it is a very crude violation of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1970,” he said. That resolution, adopted in February, imposed a comprehensive arms embargo.

Paris said on Wednesday it believed it had not violated the U.N. embargo because the weapons it gave the rebels were needed to protect civilians from an imminent attack, which it says is allowed under a later Security Council resolution.

Washington agreed. “We believe that U.N. Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973, read together, neither specified nor precluded providing defense materiel to the Libyan opposition,” State Department spokesman Mark Toner said.

“We would respectfully disagree with the Russian assessment,” he added. Nevertheless, although legal, arming the rebels was “not an option that we have acted on,” he said.
Although Russia is not involved in the bombing campaign, its stance could add to reservations among some NATO countries wary over an air war that has lasted longer and cost more than expected. Moscow could also challenge Paris at the U.N. Security Council, where both are veto-wielding permanent members.

U.N. spokesman Farhan Haq said it was up to the Security Council to determine what is permitted by its resolutions.

France’s weapons airlift, while possibly increasing the insurgent threat to Gaddafi, highlights a dilemma for NATO.

More than 90 days into its bombing campaign, Gaddafi is still in power and no breakthrough is in sight, making some NATO members feel they should help the rebels more actively, something the poorly-armed insurgents have encouraged.

But if they do that, they risk fracturing the international coalition over how far to go.

The World Bank’s Libya representative said on Thursday Islamist militants could gain ground if the conflict wears on.

“If this civil war goes on, it would be a new Somalia, which I don’t say lightly,” said Marouane Abassi, World Bank country manager for Libya who has been in Tunisia since February.

“In three months we could be dealing with extremists. That’s why time is very important in this conflict, before we face problems in managing it.”

Even before news of the French arms supply emerged, fissures were emerging in the coalition with some members voicing frustration about the high cost, civilian casualties, and the elusiveness of a military victory.

Gaddafi says the NATO campaign is an act of colonial aggression aimed at stealing the North African state’s oil. He says NATO’s U.N.-mandated justification for its campaign — to protect Libyan civilians from attack — is spurious.

NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen made clear on Thursday the weapons airlift was a unilateral French initiative. Asked by reporters on a visit to Vienna if NATO had been involved, he answered: “No.”

“As regards compliance with the U.N. Security Council resolution, it is for the U.N. sanctions committee to determine that,” Rasmussen said.

The rebel advance toward Tripoli’s southwest outskirts from the Western Mountains has not been matched by progress toward the capital from the east, where they hold Misrata on the coast about 200 km (130 miles) from the capital.

The city has been bombarded for months by Gaddafi’s forces. Six rockets landed early on Thursday near the oil refinery and port. A Reuters journalist there reported no casualties.

Britain’s military said its Apache helicopters had attacked a government checkpoint and two military vehicles near Khoms, on the Mediterranean coast between Misrata and Tripoli.

Insurgents say Gaddafi’s forces are massing and bringing weapons to quell an uprising in Zlitan, the next big town along the road from Misrata to the capital. Rebels inside Zlitan said they mounted a raid on pro-Gaddafi positions on Wednesday night.

“(We) carried out a violent attack last night on checkpoints … and exchanged gunfire, killing a number of soldiers,” a rebel spokesman, who identified himself as Mabrouk, told Reuters from the town.
Le Figaro newspaper said France had parachuted rocket launchers, assault rifles and anti-tank missiles into the Western Mountains in early June.

A French military spokesman later confirmed arms had been delivered, although he said anti-tank missiles were not among them. Despite the diplomatic storm, the rebels encouraged more arms deliveries.

“Giving (us) weapons we will be able to decide the battle more quickly, so that we can shed as little blood as possible,” senior rebel figure Mahmoud Jibril said in Vienna.

The conflict has halted oil exports from Libya, helping push up world oil prices. Jibril said it may take years for oil exports to fully resume: “No, no oil is being sold. A lot of the oil well system was destroyed, especially in the east.”

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Secret History of the Libyan Uprising

April 14, 2011 by · Leave a Comment 

By Barry Lando

2011-04-13T174823Z_1957980168_GM1E74E056Z01_RTRMADP_3_LIBYA

A boy with a Kingdom of Libya flag painted on his face attends a demonstration against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi in Benghazi April 13, 2011. International powers meeting on Libya’s future called for the first time on Wednesday for Gaddafi to step aside, but NATO countries squabbled publicly over stepping up air strikes to help topple him.

REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh

What you’re probably going to read someday: U.N. Resolution 1973 authorized action to create a no-fly zone in Libya. It did not authorize the use of foreign troops on the ground. President Barack Obama seemed to accept that limitation when he made his famous “no U.S. boots on the ground” declaration—a statement that has been repeated by every U.S. spokesman since. Since Obama’s declaration however, it has been learned that, in fact, for several weeks CIA operatives have been active in Libya. They are there supposedly to find targets for the missile and rocket attacks of the U.S. and its allies, as well as to get some idea of who the opposition is that Obama and French President Nicolas Sarkozy et al. have chosen to support.

The joke was those CIA types are not wearing boots, but sneakers.

Recently we learned, via Al-Jazeera English, that there is a secret training site in eastern Libya where U.S. and Egyptian special forces are giving basic weapons training to selected rebels. Those rebels are also now receiving more sophisticated weapons. You can be sure those U.S. advisers are wearing boots.

That report was long expected. For when the secret history of this current struggle is written (there are already several books in the works), we will almost certainly learn that, despite Obama’s public protestations, he was advised before launching his Libyan adventure that U.S. “advisers” would more than likely also be needed.

Revelations will probably also make it clear that President Obama was told that those U.S. advisers could not just be limited to instructing the rebels how to fire their weapons, but would also have to train them and give them basic military skills. And it probably won’t stop there.

Those advisers are probably also—behind the scenes—already filling key command roles: advising the rebels when and how to advance, either directly or in liaison with special forces from other countries with boots on the ground in Libya, everyone doing his best to maintain the fiction that those “advisers” aren’t there. And that the rebels are calling their own shots.

For those American spooks and troops are not alone.

According to other reports, special “Smash Squads” from Britain’s famed SAS have also been on the ground in Libya for several weeks now pursuing similar missions.

Perhaps they’re the same SAS teams that Britain supposedly dispatched to train Moammar Gadhafi’s special forces a year or so back—part of the warming of relations between the two countries.

And considering the determination of Sarkozy to push for the original attacks, reports that elite French troops are also on the ground in Libya are almost certainly true as well.

The above would mesh with an unconfirmed report from a Pakistani newspaper claiming: “According to an exclusive report confirmed by a Libyan diplomat in the region, the three Western states have landed their special forces troops in Cyrinacia and are now setting up their bases and training centres to reinforce the rebel forces who are resisting pro-Gadhafi forces in several adjoining areas.

“A Libyan official who requested not to be identified said that the U.S. and British military gurus were sent on Feb. 23 and 24 through American and French warships and small naval boats off Libyan ports of Benghazi and Tobruk.”

Which brings us to the declaration of an American military official briefing the press. When he was asked whether the coalition forces communicate with the rebels in Libya, he said no. “Regarding coordination with rebel forces, nothing. Our mission is to protect civilians,” said the official. “It’s not about the rebels, this is about protection of civilians,” he added.

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French Fast Food Chain Quick Sparks Halal Burger Appeal

February 28, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Quick-france A French council has lodged a complaint against a fast food chain that serves only meat that conforms with Islamic dietary laws at a local branch.

The mayor of Roubaix, in northern France, said the halal menu constituted “discrimination” against non-Muslims.

The Roubaix branch is one of several restaurants at which the chain, Quick, took non-halal products and pork off the menu in November.

The move has triggered the latest row over France’s Muslim minority.

Several deputies from French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative UMP party have condemned the move, while Marine Le Pen, a vice-president of the far-right National Front, warned of “Islamisation”.

Their comments came ahead of regional elections in France next month, and against the backdrop of a debate over French national identity launched by Mr Sarkozy’s government.

‘Going too far’

In Roubaix, Mayor Rene Vandierendonck, a socialist, called for a boycott of the Quick branch, and the town council has filed a complaint for discrimination with a regional court in Lille.

“I’m not bothered by the fact that there is a halal menu,” Mr Vandierendonck said.

“But this is going too far because it is the only menu on offer and it has become discrimination.”

Quick decided to take a bacon hamburger off the menu at eight of its 350 branches, replacing it with a halal version that comes with smoked turkey.

It said the move was designed to test the “commercial interest and technical feasibility” of introducing halal menus.

The Quick manager responsible for the Roubaix branch said there had been a slight increase in business after the introduction of halal menus and that he had not received complaints from customers, AFP news agency reported.

France is home to Europe’s biggest Muslim minority, estimated at more than five million people.

Debate has recently focused on the Islamic veil, with a French parliamentary committee recommending a partial ban on women wearing Islamic face veils last month.

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