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US missiles found on pro-Haftar base in Libya belonged to France Open in fullscreen

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US missiles found on pro-Haftar base in Libya belonged to France

Government fighters display US-made Javelin anti-tank missiles found on a base for Haftar's forces [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 10 July, 2019

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Powerful American missiles sold to France ended up at a base used by forces loyal to General Khalifa Haftar, who is seeking to overthrow the United Nations-backed government in Tripoli.
Powerful American missiles found on a base used by forces loyal to Libya's Khalifa Haftar were originally from France, the French defence ministry said Wednesday, but denied supplying them to the rebels, which would be a breach of a UN arms embargo.

Paris said the US-made Javelin missiles, priced at more than $170,000 each and found in a camp south of Tripoli, had been given to French forces operating in the war-torn country, but were defective and were meant to have been destroyed.

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

Four Javelin missiles, normally supplied only to close US allies, were discovered on June 29 when forces loyal to the UN-recognised government in Tripoli overran a base in Gheryan used by men under the command of Haftar.

They were shown to reporters at the time, leading to an investigation in Washington to determine who owned the weapons, which can be used against tanks and other vehicles. The State Department concluded the missiles were originally sold to France as part of a 2010 sale.

"These weapons were for the protection of forces undertaking intelligence and counter-terror missions," the French statement added.

The admission is potentially embarrassing for France which has long denied allegations that it is assisting Haftar on the ground while also giving him diplomatic support internationally.

Questions have been raised as to how the missiles came into the hands of Haftar's forces. French forces deployed in Libya have largely been based in the east, far from Tripoli near where the base was located.

On April 4, Haftar launched an offensive on Tripoli seeking to overthrow the UN-recognised government of Fayez al-Sarraj, triggering fighting that has claimed at least 1,000 lives.

Haftar is increasingly seen by his allies as a bulwark against Islamists in Libya who gained a foothold after the 2011 uprising that ousted dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

Shells bearing the markings of the army of the United Arab Emirates were also shown to journalists after being found at the base in Gheryan, according to forces loyal to the Tripoli government.

The UAE, Egypt and Saudi Arabia are seen as key supporters of Haftar. In May, an investigation by Al-Jazeera Arabic TV revealed that cargo planes were found to be dropping off unidentified material at airbases controlled by general Haftar.

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