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Regime change via Western bombing : Libya on the brink

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          • Paris, April 19, 2011 -- France has challenged Algeria over claims it is supplying arms to help Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi put down the revolt against his rule, and received a firm denial, Paris said on Tuesday. France's Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said he had spoken to his Algerian counterpart Mourad Medelci on Monday, following allegations from the rebels fighting Gaddafi that Algeria was continuing to arm him. "I told him: 'Here it is, there is information circulating that Gaddafi may have received several hundred armed vehicles carrying munitions from Algeria'," Juppe told a lunch in Paris for diplomatic correspondents. "I asked him the question and he assured me... that it wasn't true." Earlier, the Algerian foreign ministry had confirmed the two ministers had spoken, but had not provided any detail on their conversation. France has recognised Libya's rebel Transitional National Council as the best representative of the Libyan people and has demanded Gaddafi step down, while taking a leading role in NATO air strikes against his forces. The TNC has repeatedly accused Algeria of arming the regime and even claims to have captured Algerian "mercenaries" on the battlefield, but Algiers firmly denies all the charges.

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            • April 20, 2011 -- An Algerian diplomatic source said his country will not officially respond to a complaint submitted by Libyan rebels' Transitional National Council (TNC) to the Arab League (AL), alleging that Algeria is assisting Gaddafi forces with arms and mercenaries. The local El Khabar newspaper Tuesday quoted what it called "a high ranking diplomat official" as saying that "such a complaint is zero, it's a sheet that doesn't deserve to be responded to, because it is based on statements made by an association based abroad, while facts are occurring inside Libya." The source said that "the complaint is not only insignificant and unreliable, but also unofficial, given that the membership of Libya in the AL is suspended ... Algeria will not respond officially to the AL."

              Asharq Al Awsat, a London based Arabic-language newspaper said Monday that the TNC on Sunday submitted a complaint to the general secretary of the AL urging him to install a fact-finding panel over what the TNC called "suspicious abuses of the Algerian air force and Air Algérie which carried military equipment and mercenaries to Libya to back up Muammar Gaddafi." The complaint alleged that 51 flights had landed at the airports of Tripoli and Mitiga, saying "the flights were conducted secretly by the Algerian Air Force."

              The Algerian Foreign Ministry has rebuffed TNC's accusation that Algeria sent mercenaries there, saying the charges are " irresponsible." The ministry said in a statement that TNC chief Mustafa Abdul Jalil had persisted with the claims despite repeated Algerian denials. "This irresponsible obstinacy to involve the Algerian authorities at all costs, making us wonder about the intentions and motivation of those behind this conspiracy against a country blamed because it has refused to interfere in Libyan interior affairs, deplored the disproportionate use of force and warned against the deadly dangers of the infiltration of terrorist groups in the Libyan territory," said the Foreign Ministry.

              Libyan rebels said they raised the issue of Gaddafi's using of foreign mercenaries from other African and Arab countries, particularly Algeria, during talks with an African Union delegation working to seek a cease-fire in Libya. Meanwhile, the local Algerian Echorouk newspaper quoted sources as saying "the security chaos in Libya, since the start of the fighting between rebels and pro-Gaddafi forces has led to stealing arms from arsenals, and for now about 20 million pieces of weapons are in the hands of rebels and extremist groups."

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              • April 20, 2011 -- Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci on Tuesday denied to his French counterpart Alain Juppe the Libyan rebels' allegations that Algeria provided military backup for Libyan Leader Muammar Gaddafi, Algerian state-run news agency APS reported. Medelci held a phone conversation with Juppe to discuss bilateral relationships and the situation in the north African region, in reference to the crisis in Libya, said APS. According to Algerian newspapers, Juppe questioned Medelci on the circulated news over an alleged role of Algeria in backing up the regime of Gaddafi with hundreds of military cars loaded with arms and ammunition, and was quoted as saying that " Medelci reassured me and told me such allegations are not true."

                The Algerian Foreign Ministry has rebuffed the accusation by the Libyan opposition Transitional National Council that Algeria sent mercenaries to Libya as "irresponsible." "This irresponsible obstinacy to involve the Algerian authorities at all costs makes us wonder about the intention and motivation of those behind this conspiracy against a country ( which is) blamed because it has refused to interfere in Libyan interior affairs, deplored the disproportionate use of force and warned against the deadly dangers of the infiltration of terrorist groups in the Libyan territory," said the foreign ministry. Libyan rebels said they raised the issue of Gaddafi's use of foreign mercenaries from other African and Arab countries, particularly Algeria, during talks with an African Union delegation working to seek a cease-fire in Libya.

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                      • April 20, 2011 -- Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's regime has spent $3.5 million (£2.1 million) hiring hundreds of mercenaries from north Africa to help defeat anti-government rebels, according to senior NATO officials. Details of a deal to recruit 450 fighters from the disputed Western Sahara region have been passed to NATO officials by a former Gaddafi loyalist who was involved in the negotiations before defecting to the rebels. According to the defector, who has not been named, the mercenaries are being paid $10,000 each to fight for Col Gaddafi for two months. The deal with the mercenaries was arranged last month after serious anti-government protests threatened to overthrow the regime. The majority of the fighters are reported to be members of the Sahrawi tribe who are based in the Western Sahara, and have been fighting a war of independence against Morocco as members of the Polisario Front. Colonel Gaddafi's officials have also recruited scores of fighters from rebel movements in Niger and Mali that have close links with the Gaddafi regime. In the past NATO officers have received reports that Colonel Gaddafi has relied heavily on foreign mercenaries to defend his regime, but the documents produced by recent defectors show he is still actively looking to recruit more fighters. "Gaddafi is using all his contacts in the region to bring more mercenaries into Libya to defend his regime," said a senior NATO officer. Colonel Gaddafi is also believed to have recruited mercenaries from Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Sudan and possibly even Asia and eastern Europe. Libyan opposition groups have accused the mercenaries of being responsible for some of the worst excesses committed by the regime, including the murder of women and children.

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                        Dr. Sidi M. Omar, Ambassador of the Sahrawi Republic (SADR)to Ethiopia and the African Union, responds as follows:

                        The article claims that members of the Frente Pplisario were involved in the ongoing conflict in Libya. We categorically deny these baseless allegations and challenge all those parties that propagate these kinds of preposterous accusations to bring forth any evidence in their possession to prove their claims. Needless to say, these unfounded allegations emanate from those quarters that have vested interest in discrediting our liberation movement. The Frente Polisario is an internationally recognised liberation movement whose sole aim is to liberate Western Sahara from Morocco’s illegal occupation and to enable the Sahrawi people to exercise their internationally recognised right to self-determination and independence. Moreover, the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR) is a full and founding member of the African Union. Its position as to the on-going conflict in Libya stems from the same policy of the African Union, and thus it has publically reaffirmed its strong commitment to the respect for the unity and territorial integrity of Libya as well as its full support for the efforts deployed by the AU High-Level ad-hoc Committee on Libya.

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                        • April 20, 2011 -- A new humanitarian corridor will permit aid to flow from Ras Jedir on the Tunisian border into western Libya, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday. (April 19th). "[This] is a first vital step in reaching thousands of hungry people affected by the conflict, in particular women, children and elderly people, whose food supplies are running alarmingly short," WFP head Josette Sheeran said. The Libyan Red Crescent will deliver wheat flour, energy biscuits and other items to the crisis-affected population. A UNICEF ship carrying aid supplies for up to 25,000 people is also expected to dock in the beleaguered Libyan city of Misrata on Wednesday, the United Nations said in a statement. Over the last ten days, some 10,000 Libyans have fled into the Dehiba area of southern Tunisia, UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) spokesman Andrej Mahecic said Tuesday. Most of the refugees are from the town of Nalut, about 50 kilometres from the Tunisian border. International humanitarian agencies are particularly concerned about the crisis facing Libyan children. "Despite [the] outcry from the international community, children continue to be the victims of the conflict in Libya," UN Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict Radhika Coomaraswamy said.

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