Libyan rebel chief quiet on arms demand in Berlin (UPDATE)
Adds Berlin to dateline (first version posted at 15:38)
Libya's rebel chief, Mahmoud Jibril, refrained Thursday from asking Germany for arms supplies, but appealed in Berlin instead for medical treatment for the rebel wounded.
Just hours earlier in Vienna, Jibril, head of the Transitional National Council (TNC), had been more forthright, telling Austria that his movement needed outside arms supplies to win the war against Libyan leader Moamer Gaddafi, dpa reported.
Jibril spoke a day after France confirmed air drops of weapons to opposition Berber forces, triggering accusations that the French had breached a UN Security Council embargo on arms supplies to Libya.
Germany recognizes the TNC, based in Benghazi, as Libya's government. Jibril met with Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
Speaking later to reporters, there was no mention of arms, but Jibril said the TNC wanted Berlin to unfreeze Tripoli's bank accounts in Germany and let the TNC have the assets.
The TNC also needed medical treatment for the wounded and equipment to clear minefields.
Germany has strict laws against sending arms to warzones and the German public have been sceptical about the wisdom of NATO's bombardment of Gaddafi forces.
Westerwelle, who has visited the rebel stronghold of Benghazi, said he was determined to support their cause.
"We are taking the side of the democratic forces in Libya," he said. "We won't let up in our political pressure on Gaddafi."
He said the fact that Germany was not militarily involved in NATO operations against Gaddafi did not mean it was neutral.
Jibril said the opposition government respected Germany's decision to stay out of the conflict, and regarded economic and political support as just as important.
Earlier, in Vienna, he had complained: "The rebels have only light arms." After meeting Austrian Foreign Minister Michael Spindelegger, he said, "We need weapons to bring the fight to a quick end."
A French military spokesman said on Wednesday that France had dropped light arms and ammunition to Berber tribes fighting government forces in the western Nafusa mountains in early June.
Until the disclosure, only Qatar had been certainly known to have directly armed the rebels.
NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen did not directly respond to the rebel's call for military aid.
"Our operation in Libya aims at implementing fully UN Security Council resolution 1973: the no-fly zone, the arms embargo and the protection of civilians," he told reporters in Vienna, on the sidelines of a meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe.
He said the Western military alliance had not been involved in the French initiative and that he had no information about any other NATO arms supplies.