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|06-29-2011, 10:49 AM||#1|
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Libya conflict: France air-dropped arms to rebels
France has air-dropped weapons to rebels fighting Col Muammar Gaddafi's troops in Western Libya, the French military has confirmed.
Light arms and ammunition were sent to Berber tribal fighters in the Nafusa mountains in early June, it said.
Libyan rebels have been making military gains in the west of the country.
Earlier, a report in Le Figaro newspaper said the arms included rocket launchers and anti-tank missiles.
France, a leading force in the Nato operation in Libya, did not inform its allies about the move, Le Figaro said.
"We began by dropping humanitarian aid: food, water and medical supplies," said Col Thierry Burkhard, spokesman for the French general staff.
"During the operation, the situation for the civilians on the ground worsened. We dropped arms and means of self-defence, mainly ammunition," he told AFP.
He said the arms were "light infantry weapons of the rifle type", dropped over a period of several days "so that civilians would not be massacred".
The BBC's Christian Fraser in Paris says the statement is likely to bring further criticism from the likes of Russia and China, who believe Nato and its allies have already gone beyond the remit of the UN resolution authorising international military action in Libya for the protection of civilians.
Note: 29 June 2011 Last updated at 14:21 GMT
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