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Rebel support

July 1, 2011

Libyan rebel leader Mahmud Jibril has said he respects Germany's decision not to take part in military action in Libya, after a meeting in Berlin. He also appealed for supplies to help treat wounded rebel fighters.

Rebel fighters in Benghazi in May 2011
Rebel fighters in Benghazi need all the help they can getImage: dapd

Libyan rebel leader Mahmud Jibril met German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle for talks in Berlin on Thursday, saying he respected Germany's decision not to get involved in military action in his country.

Jibril did not call on Germany to supply arms to the rebels, but he did ask Berlin for medical equipment to treat wounded fighters. He also thanked Westerwelle for Berlin's support for the opposition National Transition Council and for the 15 million euros (21.8 million dollars) Germany has provided in aid.

"Help for the Libyan people can come in many ways," Jibril told reporters when asked about Germany opting out of the NATO campaign of airstrikes.

"Protecting the Libyan people from bombardment is not very different from economic assistance and political pressure."

Support for fledgling opposition

Mahmud Jibril of the Libyan National Transition Council
Jibril thanked Germany for its supportImage: picture-alliance/dpa

In March, Germany abstained on a vote at the UN Security Council authorizing a mission to protect civilians in Libya. That move provoked international criticism.

Westerwelle recognized Jibril's National Transitional Council (NTC) as the "legitimate representative" of the Libyan people during a June visit to Benghazi, the eastern seat of the rebellion.

"We are standing by the democratic forces in Libya," he told the news conference in Berlin. "We won't let up in our political pressure on [Libyan leader Moammar] Gadhafi."

Jibril, the top foreign affairs official in the NTC, thanked Germany for offers of assistance, including prosthetic limbs, psychological counseling for the traumatized as well as support for the around 700 Libyan students in Germany.

Controversy over French arms supplies

Jibril declined to comment on the French military's arms drop to the rebels, a move Russia said marks a "blatant violation" of the UN Security Council resolution.

France has admitted that it dropped light arms and ammunition to Berber tribes fighting government forces in the western Nafusa mountains in early June. Paris claims the action was in support of UN Resolution 1973 "to take all necessary measures to protect civilians" - the weapons having been used for self defense.

Both the United Nations Security Council and France’s NATO allies were informed of the arms drop, French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Friday following a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov.

However, Lavrov said the French action broke UN Resolution 1970, an earlier decree that banned all arms deliveries to the country. Speaking after the meeting, Lavrov added that he did not accept the French position which "allows anyone to do anything for any reason."

A military helicopter in France
France has been criticized for supplying arms to the rebelsImage: picture-alliance/dpa

Washington has supported has supported the French interpretation of the UN resolutions.

"We believe that UN Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973, read together, neither specified nor precluded providing defense material to the Libyan opposition," said US State Department spokesman Mark Toner.

"We would respectfully disagree with the Russian assessment," he added.

Although Russia is not involved in the bombing campaign, its criticism could add to reservations among some NATO countries about the length and cost of the Libya conflict. More than 100 days into the bombing campaign, Gadhafi remains in power with no breakthrough in sight.

Authors: Joanna Impey, Richard Connor (AFP, dpa, Reuters)
Editor: Martin Kuebler