Libyan Internationally-Recognized Gov’t Urges UN to Lift Arms Embargo

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Libyan soldiers, loyal to Libya's internationally-recognized government in the eastern coastal city of Benghazi on February 28, 2015. AFP/Abdullah Doma.

Published Thursday, March 5, 2015

Libya’s internationally-recognized government urged the UN Security Council on Wednesday to approve a request for military purchases as it struggles to combat militants and protect its oil fields.

The internationally-recognized government, one of two bodies that claims to rule troubled Libya, asked the council's sanctions committee to grant an exemption to an arms embargo and allow it to beef up its air force.

"The leadership of the Libyan army has submitted specific requests for exemptions from the arms embargo to the sanctions committee," Libyan Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi told the 15-member council.

"These requests relate to reinforcing the ability of the Libyan air force so that it may be able to monitor Libya's territory and borders, and prevent the terrorists from reaching oil fields and oil facilities," he said.

According to a document from the sanctions committee, Libya is seeking to purchase 14 MiG fighter jets, seven helicopters, 150 tanks, 150 armed personnel carriers mounted with machine guns, 10,000 grenade launchers, along with ammunition rounds and mortars from defense contractors in Ukraine, the Czech Republic and Serbia.

The request came less than two weeks after Libya asked the council to lift the arms embargo imposed in 2011 when the country descended into violence after the uprising against Muammar Gaddafi.

Britain, France and the United States oppose scrapping the embargo, arguing that it would fuel violence, but diplomats have stressed that arms contracts can be approved by the sanctions committee on a case-by-case basis.

The sanctions committee notified council members that it plans to approve the request on Monday if no objections are raised.

A previous request made by Libya for an exemption to the arms embargo was turned down because of the volume of weaponry on the list, some of which was highly-sophisticated, diplomats said.

"We will see in the next few days the level of seriousness among the members of this council and how much they care for the security and stability of Libya and the region," Dabbashi said .

Meanwhile, Libya's National Oil Company declared force majeure on Wednesday at 11 oil fields after attacks by militants, a legal step protecting it from liability if it could not fulfil contracts for reasons beyond its control.

And the company threatened to "close all fields and ports" if the security situation does not improve.

Islamist militants seized al-Bahi and al-Mabrouk fields on Tuesday and were heading for a third one, at al-Dahra, a spokesman for the Libyan oil industry's security service said.

Violence and a slowdown at export terminals have already forced a shutdown at Bahi and Mabrouk, about 500 kilometers (310 miles) east of Tripoli, for the past several weeks.

On Tuesday, security spokesman Colonel Ali al-Hassi said militia warplanes had attacked the major export terminal at Al-Sidra but were driven off without hitting their targets.

In response, planes of the internationally-recognized authorities struck Tripoli's militia-controlled Mitiga airport without causing any casualties.

Libya has been awash with weapons since the 2011 uprising that toppled and killed Gaddafi, and opposing militias have since been battling for control of its cities and oil wealth.

Libya has two rival governments and parliaments. The internationally-recognized government was forced to flee to the country's east in June after militias, among them Islamists known as Fajr Libya (Libyan Dawn), seized Tripoli and other main cities.

The United Nations is brokering talks among the various warring factions, with a fresh round set to take place in Morocco on Thursday and two other sessions planned in Algeria and Brussels next week.

UN envoy Bernardino Leon told the council that ending the conflict in Libya was "possible" but that the situation on the ground was "deteriorating rapidly."

The international community, he said, must "move quickly to present a clearly articulated strategy in support of the Libyan state and the efforts of a national unity government in combating the growing threat of terrorism."

(AFP, Al-Akhbar)

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