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France denies supplying weapons to rebel Libyan forces

FRANCE’S Defence Ministry admitted today that a cache of missiles found in a camp that had been under the command of Gen Khalifa Haftar’s fighters in Libya belonged to France — but denied supplying them to the rebels.

The ministry claimed that the haul found at a military base in the strategic city of Gharyan last month was “not transferred to local forces.”

Four Javelin anti-tank missiles, which had been bought from the US, were discovered after the city was retaken by the Western-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) from Mr Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).

But France said it had not breached a United Nations arms embargo on Libya or its sales agreement with the US. It claimed that the weapons had been given to French forces operating in the war-torn country but were “defective” and were meant to have been destroyed.

“These weapons were for the protection of forces undertaking intelligence and counterterror missions,” a statement from the Defence Ministry said.

The discovery is a major embarrassment for the French, who have long denied allegations that they are backing Gen Haftar’s forces both militarily and politically via diplomatic support.

The LNA controls large swathes of Libya, which has descended into chaos as Gen Hafter seeks to take control of the capital, Tripoli.

The country remains bitterly divided, with two parallel governments emerging following a 2014 civil war: the UN-backed GNA in Tripoli and Gen Haftar’s administration based in Tobruk, eastern Libya.

Gen Haftar claims he is fighting against Islamists — various jihadist groups began to operate in the country after the 2011 Western-backed ousting of Muammar Gadaffi.

At least 1,000 people are believed to have been killed since fighting started in April, when Gen Haftar announced his advance on Tripoli.

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