BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO blamed forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi for a fire in an oilfield in Libya on Thursday, and denied the Western military alliance had launched air strikes in the area.
The Libyan government’s Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim told reporters that British planes had damaged an oil pipeline in a strike against the Sarir oilfield that killed three guards.
But rebels blamed Gaddafi forces, saying government attacks on three different installations in the east of the country had halted production of the oil they need to finance the eight-week uprising against Gaddafi.
“We are aware that pro-Gaddafi forces have attacked this area in recent days, which resulted in at least one fire at an oil facility north of Sarir,” Canadian Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard, commander of NATO’s operations in Libya, said in a statement.
“To try and blame it on NATO is a clear demonstration how desperate this regime is,” he said.
He added that NATO, which is filling a United Nations mandate to protect civilians in Libya through air strikes and enforcement of a no-fly zone, was not conducting strikes in the area because there was no threat to the civilian population there.
“The only one responsible for this fire is the Gaddafi regime and we know he wants to disrupt oil getting to Tobruk,” Bouchard said.
Reporting by Justyna Pawlak; Editing by Rex Merrifield