LONDON - A Libyan opposition leader said yesterday that rebels needed more weapons and funding, as China and Russia raised concerns over revelations that France had supplied arms to civilians fighting Moammar Khadafy’s forces.
Mahmoud Jibril, of Libya’s Transitional National Council, said foreign deliveries of military hardware would give the rebels a chance to “decide this battle quickly [and] to spill as little blood as possible.’’
French military spokesman Colonel Thierry Burkhard said Wednesday that France had airlifted weapons to Libyan civilians in a mountain region south of Tripoli. The deliveries of guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and munitions took place in early June in the western Nafusa mountains, when Khadafy’s troops had encircled civilians.
Khadafy’s prime minister, Al-Baghdadi al-Mahmoudi, predicted that France “will suffer for this,’’ saying that the weapons could end up in the hands of terrorists. “Many more French citizens will die because of these acts,’’ Mahmoudi told a small group of reporters in Tripoli, according to a partial transcript of his remarks.
China and Russia have questioned whether the supplying of weapons breached the terms of the UN Security Council resolution that authorizes international action in Libya.
Sergey Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, said his ministry had asked France for further details. “We are awaiting a response. If it is confirmed, it’s a flagrant violation’’ of the resolution, he said.
State Department spokesman Mark Toner said the United States would “respectfully disagree’’ with the Russian assessment.
“We believe that UN Security Council Resolutions 1970 and 1973, read together, neither specified nor precluded providing defense material to the Libyan opposition,’’ he said.
Britain’s foreign secretary, William Hague, said yesterday that the United Kingdom was sending 5,000 sets of body armor, 6,650 uniforms, 5,000 high-visibility vests, and communications equipment to police officers in rebel-held areas.