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France: Libyan rebels no longer need weapons drops

Arab World Materials 5 July 2011 15:42
French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet on Tuesday ruled out further weapons drops to Libya's rebels, saying they were "no longer necessary" because the rebels had achieved a degree of autonomy.

French Defence Minister Gerard Longuet on Tuesday ruled out further weapons drops to Libya's rebels, saying they were "no longer necessary" because the rebels had achieved a degree of autonomy.

A "distinct political organization" had emerged in rebel-held areas, he said, DPA reported.

"That's the reason why the parachuting (of weapons) are no longer necessary - they were a few weeks ago - because the territories are organizing their autonomy," he said.

Longuet likened the rebels' organization to that of an independent territory.

"This autonomy allows them to establish relations with external partners, including when it comes to equipping themselves in self-defence."

France was criticized after it emerged last week that Paris had been dropping weapons by parachute to rebels in Libya's western Nafusa mountains.

A military spokesman said the arms were mostly "light infantry weapons of the rifle type," but French daily Le Figaro reported that the deliveries included anti-tank missiles.

France is the first known Western country to directly supply arms to the rebels, who began an uprising against leader Moamer Gaddafi's autocratic 42-year rule in mid-February.

Before that the rebels had been supplied mainly by Arab states, such as Qatar.

The unilateral French move drew sharp criticism from Russia and China and disapproval from France's ally, Britain, which said the move raised "quite a few issues."

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