Paris Says Its Missiles Found On Pro-Haftar Base In Libya

The missiles were discovered on a rebel base in Gharyan after UN-recognised government forces recaptured the city at the end of June

The missiles were discovered on a rebel base in Gharyan after UN-recognised government forces recaptured the city at the end of June

France has said some of its missiles were found at a Libyan base used by forces loyal to the military strongman Khalifa Haftar - an embarrassing admission that raises new questions about its role in the conflict.

"They were not transferred to local forces", a statement from the ministry said.

The Army Ministry said the missiles were intended for the "self-protection of a French military unit deployed to carry out intelligence and counter-terrorism operations".

But it denied supplying them to rebel commander Haftar and breaching a United Nations arms embargo, saying French forces operating in the war-torn country had lost track of them after they were judged to be defective.

Gheryan was the headquarters for Haftar's forces as they massed for an assault on Tripoli in an attempt to overthrow the United Nations -backed government.

France has in the past supported Haftar.

However last week the UAE denied ownership of the weapons saying that Abu Dhabi is committed to the UN Security Council's arms embargo in Libya - which has been in place since 2011.

Haftar is increasingly seen by his allies, which include Russian Federation and Egypt, as a bulwark against Islamists in Libya who gained a foothold after the 2011 uprising that ousted dictator Moamer Kadhafi.

Haftar relied on military assistance from the United Arab Emirates France and Egypt in his fight to capture the eastern city of Benghazi his current headquarters.

The Libyan conflict has drawn in a range of regional and worldwide actors who are all competing for influence.

But he has been branded a warlord and dictator-in-the-making by his opponents and on April 4 he launched an offensive on Tripoli seeking to overthrow the government of Prime Minister Fayez al-Sarraj.

The fighting has claimed at least 1,000 lives and displaced tens of thousands of people.

"France has long supported all established forces engaged in the fight against terrorism, in Libya, in the Tripoli area and in Cyrenaica (the east of the country), as well as more broadly in the Sahel", it said.

France under Emmanuel Macron has publicly denied taking sides in the conflict and has called for the embargo to be enforced.