UK will supply equipment to Libyan rebels, says Hague

 

BRITISH FOREIGN secretary William Hague has said the British government will supply communications equipment to the Libyan rebels, given the urgent need they have to protect civilians and communicate internationally.

He has, however, ruled out offering arms.

In an update to the House of Commons, Mr Hague said the Foreign Office had spent Sunday trying to contact rebel leaders in Benghazi, but failed to do so because of problems with telephone lines.

Once more denying that ex-Libyan former minister Mousa Kousa will receive immunity from questioning about the 1988 Lockerbie bombing, Mr Hague said his defection had “weakened” Col Gadafy’s regime.

However, Libyan politicians who are not wanted in connection with criminal cases abroad could have United Nations-imposed restrictions on their finances and movements lifted if they break with the Libyan leader.

“In the case of anyone currently sanctioned by the EU and UN who breaks definitively from the regime, we will discuss with our partners the merit of removing the restrictions that currently apply to them,” said Mr Hague.

Meanwhile, Scottish detectives travelled to London yesterday to interview Mr Kousa about the Lockerbie bombing, which occurred while he was head of Libya’s intelligence agency, though he has consistently denied involvement in bringing down the Pan Am flight with the loss of hundreds of lives. Mr Kousa, who is being protected by MI6, will be made available for interview by the Foreign Office.

In the Commons, Mr Hague said: “Mousa Kousa is not being offered any immunity from British or international justice. He is not detained by us and has taken part in discussions with officials since his arrival, of his own free will. Today my officials are meeting representatives of the crown office and Dumfries and Galloway police to discuss their request to interview him in connection with the Lockerbie bombing.

“We will encourage to co-operate fully with all requests for interviews with law enforcement and investigation authorities, in relation both to Lockerbie as well as other issues stemming from Libya’s past sponsorship of terrorism, and to seek legal representation where appropriate.”

Separately, 3,600 posts in the British army, royal navy and royal air force are to go within months, despite the British commitments in the Libyan operation and Afghanistan as part of a wider plan to cut 17,000 posts over the next four years. Up to 100 officers, including one brigadier general, will be made redundant. Half of all departures will be compulsory.

The expected announcement came just hours after the head of the RAF, Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton, warned the RAF will need extra money if it is to maintain its operations: “On current planning, we can continue in Afghanistan, the Falklands and Libya with what we have got,” he said. “But that does bring you nearer the point that you have just about exhausted the bag.”