Paris, July 10: The French defence ministry said Wednesday that its missiles had been found on a base used by forces loyal to Libya's Khalifa Haftar, but it denied supplying them to the rebels which would be a breach of a UN arms embargo. It said the US-made Javelin missiles 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 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. Libya Crisis: Egypt President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi Meets Khalifa Haftar in Cairo; UN Says 121 Dead, Over 500 Injured.
"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.
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, which include Russia and Egypt, as a bulwark against Islamists in Libya who gained a foothold after the 2011 uprising that ousted dictator Moamer Kadhafi.
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.