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France sends aid to 'liberated' Libya region

France is sending "massive" medical aid to Libyan opposition in the liberated city Benghazi. The humanitarian effort comes amid criticism of the French government's dealings with authoritarian regimes.

Children on a tank

Gaddafi opponents claimed Libya's second city, Benghazi

The French government has announced that it will send two planeloads of medical aid to support Libyan opposition territories.

The planes, which are due to leave on Monday, will carry doctors, nurses, medical equipment and medicine to the liberated city of Benghazi.

"This will be the start of a massive humanitarian aid operation to the populations of liberated areas," French Prime Minister, Francois Fillon said on Monday.

Opponents of authoritarian leader Moammar Gadhafi took control of the country's second city of Benghazi after fierce fighting between loyalist and rebel forces last week.

Libya's capital, Tripoli is still controlled by Gadhafi loyalists.

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In recent days, the French government has come under criticism for its relationship with the recently overthrown authoritarian regimes in Tunisia and Egypt.

Francois Fillon

French Prime Minister, Francois Fillon pledged support for Libya

The announcement to send aid to Tunisia came just hours after French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie resigned after details surrounding her contacts with the former Tunisian regime came to light.

Her family was said to have close ties with the regime of former President Zine El Abdine Ben Ali and she spent a Christmas holiday in Tunisia during the uprising. She was also heavily criticized for initially offering Tunisia help to quell the uprising.

President Nicolas Sarkozy unveiled a government reshuffle on Sunday night. He stated that France would do whatever it could to support the uprisings.

Immigration fears

But the French government remains concerned that the uprising could results in an influx of Libyans into Europe.

"We cannot ignore that there will be large migratory movements," French Prime Minister Fillon said. "The best way to avoid them is to help Tunisia succeed, to help Egypt succeed, to make sure the situation in Libya stabilizes rapidly."

Fillon has also not ruled out the idea the France will support a NATO enforcement of a no-fly zone over Libya. This could be introduced to prevent Gadhafi from bombing his opponents or flying in more mercenary forces to help him to cling to power.

Fillon was quick to assert, however, that the French air force could not be called upon to enforce such a no fly zone alone. He confirmed that the UN Security Council would be consulted on the matter.

Author: Charlotte Chelsom-Pill (AFP, Reuters)

Editor: Andreas Illmer

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