Libya’s rebel forces need their international allies to supply them with more weapons if they are to make a breakthrough in their fight against Muammar Gaddafi, said rebel leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil.
The United Nations imposed an arms embargo earlier this year on Libya, meaning the rebels’ allies would have to exploit loopholes in the sanctions regime or secretly circumvent it if they wanted to supply weapons.
Speaking after meeting British Prime Minister David Cameron, Abdel Jalil said his forces would make more progress if they were better armed, adding that earlier shipments of weapons had helped them to advance in the western city of Misrata, where the rebels are besieged, Reuters reports.
“Colonel Gaddafi has heavy weaponry,” Abdel Jalil told a news conference in London. “We need light weapons which are not equivalent to Gaddafi’s weapons, but perhaps with courage, which Libyans have, there may be some kind of balance.”
The fighting has reached a stalemate, with the government in control of the capital and most of western Libya, while the rebels hold Benghazi and other towns in the oil-producing east.
“If we have a minimum amount of armaments for our fighters … this will have a great impact on the revolution,” said Abdel Jalil, who chairs the Libyan National Transitional Council.
“The revolutionary forces in Misrata have achieved successive victories as a result of shipments of light weapons that they were able to obtain,” he said, without saying where these weapons had come from.
Britain had already offered to supply his forces with non-lethal equipment such as night vision goggles and body armour, he added. However, Cameron’s spokesman said the British government had not decided whether to give them weapons.
“We are providing various forms of non-lethal assistance, but we have not made any decision to provide arms,” the spokesman told reporters.
REBEL OFFICE IN LONDON
Cameron said he had invited the rebels’ council to open an office in London as part of efforts to rally international support behind their fight to overthrow Gaddafi.
“The government is today inviting the council to establish a formal office here in London,” Cameron said. “We will work with you to ensure that the international community increases the diplomatic, the economic and the military pressure on this bankrupt regime.”
Britain will bolster its diplomatic team in eastern Libya by appointing former ambassador to Iraq John Jenkins to lead its delegation there, Cameron added. It will also send several million pounds’ worth of equipment to the police in Benghazi and provide support to improve the rebels’ public broadcasting.
Last week, Western and Arab countries opposed to Gaddafi agreed in Rome to set up a fund to help the rebels.