France armed civilians besieged by Gadhafi forces

AP News
Posted: Jun 29, 2011 9:38 AM
France armed civilians besieged by Gadhafi forces

A military spokesman says France has sent weapons to Libyan civilians besieged by Moammar Gadhafi's forces _ the first NATO country to publicly announce it has armed rebel fighters.

Col. Thierry Burkhard says the deliveries took place in early June in the western Nafusa mountains when civilians were encircled by Gadhafi's forces and his government refused to allow a humanitarian aid corridor there.

Burkhard told The Associated Press Wednesday that the weapons were parachuted in by air and included "self-defense assets" like assault weapons, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades and munitions.

France and Britain, backed by the United States, have been among the main powers behind a monthslong NATO-led air campaign to protect civilians from assaults by Gadhafi's forces.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

LONDON (AP) _ Libya's cash-strapped opposition has received donor funds to pay salaries to public-sector workers in rebel-held areas, Britain confirmed on Wednesday.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague told lawmakers that a first payment of $100 million in international aid money had been made to Libya's main opposition group.

At a meeting in the United Arab Emirates earlier this month, the international contact group on Libya pledged more than $1.3 billion to help support the opposition.

"In the last week they received the first international funding ... through the temporary financing mechanism set up by the contact group for vital fuel and salaries," Hague told lawmakers.

He said a meeting of the contact group in Istanbul next month would seek to ensure "the international community is ready to support the Libyan people in building a stable future."

Libya's Transitional National Council said that funds would be used to pay teachers, street cleaners and other workers providing essential services.

Opposition Finance Minister Ali Tarhouni has made repeated pleas for urgent funds, and warned on Tuesday that hospitals in the eastern city of Benghazi were running low on medical supplies.