BERLIN (Reuters) - France is not currently in favor of arming Libyan rebels engaged in combat with troops loyal to Muammar Gaddafi, Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Thursday.
Juppe also said that the U.N.-mandated military intervention by the Western-led coalition would not be enough in itself to end Gaddafi’s 41-year authoritarian rule, and a political resolution was essential.
Asked if the coalition should arm the rebels, Juppe told a news conference “France is not currently in that frame of mind.”
In Berlin for a NATO foreign ministers meeting, Juppe reaffirmed the need for a political solution for Libya, where three weeks of coalition air strikes have failed to end a deadlock in the civil war between Gaddafi’s forces and rebels.
“We thought a military intervention was necessary... It is continuing,” he said. “But there will not be a military solution to the problem, there can only be a political solution.”
Juppe said the only differences with Germany over Libya concerned exactly how to get Gaddafi to quit. “The difference of opinion is over the means of achieving this objective,” he said.
A French presidential source said late on Wednesday, after a Franco-British meeting on Libya, that France did not plan to start arming rebels but did not oppose others doing so.
“It doesn’t seem necessary today because the national transition council is not having problems finding the weapons they need and friends to show them how to use them,” the source said, adding that France believed arming the rebels would be permitted by U.N. resolution 1973.
“We are not doing it. And nor are the British as far as I know,” he added. “It’s a decision that’s been taken but that does not mean we oppose those that do.”
Last week Bernard-Henri Levy, a celebrity philosopher who has close ties with the Libyan opposition and was a catalyst for France leading the western intervention, said weapons were being smuggled to the rebels overland, but would not say from where.
Britain has sent the rebels 100 satellite phones and will also send them 1,000 sets of body armor.
Reporting by Brian Rohan; Writing by Catherine Bremer; editing by Tim Pearce