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1.03.2011

Belarus sends arms to Libya  ? 81

0:58, AFP — Politics

Belarus sends arms to Libya

AIRCRAFT have been seen flying between Belarus and Libya, raising concerns that Ales Minsk is sending arms to Gaddafi.

"An Ilyushin Il-76 (plane) flew to Libya on February 15 from Baranovichi, a huge former Soviet weapon storage (area) now controlled by the Belarus government," said Hugh Griffiths of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), quoting aviation authority sources.

"We strongly suspect it was carrying weapons," he said.

"It was flown to Sebha airport, a very important location for Gaddafi, deep in the desert" in southern Libya," he said, adding "it's one of the very few airports that is still under the control of Gaddafi and that cannot be monitored by naval radar of the US, NATO or European warships, like in Tripoli."

"We've been monitoring (the airport) for a long time because it's been increasingly used to transfer weapons to sub-Saharan countries from Eastern europe," Griffiths said, also backing up reports at the weekend that a jet owned by Gaddafi had flown to Minsk.

"We've seen flights from Tripoli to Belarus in the last few days," Griffiths said, adding the plane was a Falcon 900, as used by the Gaddafi clan. He noted that Gaddafi's son Khamis especially maintains close relations with Alexander Lukashenko's regime.

SIPRI, which specialises in research on weapons, sent out a warning Monday to relief organisations asking them to be picky about what companies they use to transport humanitarian aid to Libya and Ivory Coast, which according to the United Nations has also been receiving arms from Belarus.

"The humanitarian organisations need big cargo planes and sometimes end up using the same aircraft that transport weapons," Griffiths cautioned.

"Our primary concern has mostly been weapons from Belarus in the last two weeks, weapons that have been flown into Yamoussoukro airport in Ivory Coast and weapons to Sebha airport in Libya," he said.

SIPRI's arms traffic surveillance unit implements European projects under the supervision of Europe's top diplomat Catherine Ashton.

The US military is moving naval and air forces into position around Libya, the Pentagon said, as Western countries weigh possible intervention against Gaddafi's regime.

"We have planners working various contingency plans, and I think it's safe to say as part of that we're repositioning forces to provide for that flexibility once decisions are made," Pentagon spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan told reporters.

The US is not planning any naval operations in Libya, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said.

"We do believe that there will be a need for support for humanitarian intervention," said Clinton.

"We expect to see Libyans and others trapped in Libya which presents a great danger on the high seas. But there is not any military action involving US naval vessels," she added.


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