World powers tangle over arming Libya’s rebels

LONDON — World powers clashed Wednesday over whether it is legal to supply weapons to Libya’s badly equipped rebels as Moammar Gadhafi’s troops beat back their advance on the ground.

A girl flashes victory sign as women wave Libyan pre-Gadhafi flags during a demonstration in Benghazi

A girl flashes victory sign as women wave Libyan pre-Gadhafi flags during a demonstration in Benghazi

LONDON — World powers clashed Wednesday over whether it is legal to supply weapons to Libya’s badly equipped rebels as Moammar Gadhafi’s troops beat back their advance on the ground.

Britain and the U.S. believe that existing U.N. Security Council resolutions on Libya could allow for foreign governments to arm the rebels.

But NATO, which is in the process of taking over command of air and other military operations in Libya, rejected that theory, saying an arms embargo was in place. China, Russia and Germany were also against supplying weapons to the rebels, with Moscow warning of possible al-Qaida links to some rebels.

Analysts, however, suggested the only hope of avoiding a lengthy stalemate in the conflict would be to provide anti-tank weapons and shoulder-launched missiles to the rebels, allowing them to take on Gadhafi’s military hardware.

British Prime Minister David Cameron said he supported U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s assessment that nations could legally supply weapons to Libyan rebels, despite an arms embargo being in place. Cameron told the House of Commons that U.N. Security Council resolutions “would not necessarily rule out the provision of assistance to those protecting civilians in certain circumstances.”

“We do not rule it out, but we have not taken any decision” on whether to supply weapons, he told lawmakers.

Obama said in television interviews Tuesday the U.S. also did not rule out providing arms to rebels, while Clinton said in London that such a move would be legally permitted — read as a signal the policy is under consideration.

NATO insists the U.N. resolutions prohibit the supply of weapons into Libya, while Russia and China expressed concern that some allies were overstepping the mark. In Germany, Foreign Ministry spokesman Stefan Bredohl said the relevant resolutions included a “comprehensive arms embargo.”

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov warned Western nations against supplying weapons to Gadhafi’s opponents and said Moscow feared that some rebels could be allied with al-Qaida.

His remarks echoed concerns raised in Washington on Tuesday, when NATO’s top commander, U.S. Navy Adm. James Stavridis, said officials had seen “flickers” of possible al-Qaida and Hezbollah involvement with the dissident forces.

The comments were seized upon by Michele Bachmann, the tea party-backed conservative congresswoman, who said the U.S. should rule out supplying weapons because of those concerns about an al-Qaida influence.

NATO said agreement from all 28 members of the alliance would be needed to participate in the arming of rebel forces, and that approving such a move would risk further rifts between the members themselves and outside partners such as the Arab League and African Union.

“The U.N. resolution forbids arms to enter Libya,” said an official who could not be named under standing regulations. “Quite honestly, NATO wouldn’t even consider doing anything else unless a new U.N. Security Council resolution is issued to that effect.”

In London, ex-British foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind urged nations to ensure Libya’s rebels are “properly assisted to enable this war to be brought to an end as soon as possible.”

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said he supported that view, but also acknowledged that “introducing new weapons into a conflict can have unforeseeable and unknown consequences.”

Retired Brigadier Benjamin Barry, of London’s International Institute for Strategic Studies, said it wasn’t certain rebels would have the ability to use any weapons supplied by the West, because they would likely require basic training.

“The kind of arms that could be provided are simple, easy to use anti-armour weapons, unguided shoulder-launched rockets, guided missiles and mortars,” Barry said.

But he acknowledged there would be “a risk that these weapons could pass into unfriendly hands after the fighting is over.”

The history of arming anti-Soviet rebels in Afghanistan would weigh heavily on any decision to offer military hardware, Hague said. “There are examples of weapons being given to people in good faith and then those weapons being used for other purposes,” he told lawmakers.

Hague confirmed Britain had ordered the expulsion of five Libyan diplomats — including the country’s military attache — over threats to opponents of Gadhafi’s regime in the U.K., and because they posed a potential security risk.

“Were these individuals to remain in Britain, they could pose a threat to our security,” Hague said. Officials explained the Libyan diplomats had been involved in attempts to harass opposition supporters in Britain.

Hague said British diplomats had held talks in the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi with opposition figures in recent days — before similar meetings being held by U.S. and French officials — to seek assurances about their motives.

He said he was assured that, despite the warning from Stavridis, violent Islamists did not hold a prominent role within Libya’s rebel movement.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

AstraZeneca vaccine is ready to be used at a homeless shelter in Romford, east London, Wednesday, Feb. 3, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Frank Augstein
AstraZeneca-linked blood clot confirmed in Alberta

A case of an AstraZeneca-linked blood clot has been confirmed in Alberta,… Continue reading

The Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools Board of Trustees selected the name St. Lorenzo Ruiz Middle School to be built in the north end of Red Deer. (Photo Courtesy of  Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools)
Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raises about $8,720 for Terry Fox Foundation

Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools raised about $8,720 for the Terry Fox… Continue reading

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels allowed four straight goals from the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday night on the road. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers hand Red Deer Rebels 10th straight loss

Tigers 4 Rebels 2 Through 17 games in the shortened WHL season,… Continue reading

Meghan Huizing has been selected by Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools as a finalist for the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) 2021 Edwin Parr Award. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools)
Red Deer Catholic names finalist for Edwin Parr Award

Meghan Huizing from St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Blackfalds has… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Brad Dahr, 53, is facing numerous charges. (Photo contributed by Alberta RCMP)
Alberta man charged for alleged sexual offences against children

An Edmonton man has been charged for alleged sexual offences against children… Continue reading

A person walks past a COVID-19 mural designed by artist Emily May Rose on a rainy day during the COVID-19 pandemic in Toronto on Monday, April 12, 2021. Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off the job or coming into work while knowingly sick could warrant discipline in the workplace. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Risky pandemic behaviour off the clock could mean workplace discipline: lawyers

CALGARY — Employment lawyers say flouting COVID-19 public health orders when off… Continue reading

Vials containing Russia's Sputnik V vaccine for COVID-19 are seen at the San Marino State Hospital, in San Marino, Friday, April 9, 2021.  THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Antonio Calanni
China, Russia using their COVID-19 vaccines to gain political influence

OTTAWA — China and Russia have been using their locally produced COVID-19… Continue reading

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau holds a press conference in Ottawa Tuesday, March 9, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Trudeau announces donation to Duke of Edinburgh’s award ahead of funeral

Canada will donate $200,000 to the Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award as… Continue reading

Parliamentary Secretary to Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry (Science) Will Amos responds to a question during question period in the House of Commons on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Friday, Dec. 11, 2020. The Liberal MP who inadvertently flashed his parliamentary colleagues says the fact that a screenshot of him in the nude was leaked to the media sends a troubling message about the corrosive state of politics in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Patrick Doyle
Canada’s naked MP speaks out: leaked photo sends message ‘anything goes’ in politics

OTTAWA — The Liberal MP who inadvertently flashed his parliamentary colleagues says… Continue reading

In this file photo, a lotto Max ticket is shown in Toronto on Monday Feb. 26, 2018. (By THE CANADIAN PRESS)
No winning ticket for Friday night’s $10 million Lotto Max jackpot

TORONTO — No winning ticket was sold for the $10 million jackpot… Continue reading

Opinion
Opinion: Canada’s self-esteem needs Trump

Well, it was fun while it lasted. For four years, with Donald… Continue reading

Harley Hay
Harley Hay: Shenanigans on the links

It must be something about my Scottish heritage but I seem to… Continue reading

Most Read