The head of the rebel forces in eastern Libya retracted an assertion by a rebel spokesman that Italy had agreed to supply them with weapons to aid in their fight to oust leader Muammar Gaddafi.
“We have not received any weapons, not from Italy nor from any other country,” said Abdel Fattah Younes, speaking on al Jazeera television, Reuters reports.
“Maybe one of the brothers failed to express himself properly … we apologise to Italy on behalf of the brothers in the National Council.”
Abdel-Hafiz Ghoga, spokesman for the rebels’ Transitional National Council, told a news conference in Benghazi earlier on Saturday that weapons would be provided to the insurgents soon.
Asked to confirm reports, Ghoga said: “Yes, the military officers have confirmed that they have an agreement with the Italians.
“They will supply us with weapons. They’ve already been there (to Rome) twice, and we will receive them very soon,” he added.
In Rome, a Foreign Ministry spokesman said no such deal had been reached. “There has been no agreement to supply them with weapons,” the spokesman told Reuters.
He said Rome would only offer the rebels “equipment for self defence” as agreed by the so-called Libyan “contact group” of countries at a meeting in Doha last month.
Italy has thrown its full support behind Libyan rebels, formally recognising the transitional council as the only legitimate representatives of the country, but it was unlikely that it would go further than other countries in the anti-Gaddafi coalition.
Rebels have long been demanding they need more heavy weapons to take on the Libyan leader’s better-armed and trained forces.