U.N. experts concerned Libya arms could be diverted to militias
The experts could also end up in the hands of other militia after battles or if Libyan troops lose control of stockpiles.
U.N. sanctions monitors said on Friday they are concerned that if a United Nations Security Council committee approves a request by Libya’s government for weapons, tanks and jets, some of the equipment could be diverted to militias supporting them.
The experts, who monitor violations of an arms embargo imposed on Libya in 2011, said in a letter - obtained by Reuters - that arms could also end up in the hands of other militia after battles or if Libyan troops lose control of stockpiles.
Libya’s internationally-recognized government of Prime Minister Abdullah al-Thinni has operated out of the east since a rival armed faction called Libya Dawn took over Tripoli in fighting last year and set up its own administration.
The rival governments and their allies are battling for control of Libya four years after a civil war ousted Muammar Gaddafi. The chaos has allowed Islamic State and Ansar al-Sharia militants to use their foothold in Libya, an OPEC member.
The internationally-recognized government is allowed to import arms with approval of the 15-member Security Council committee overseeing the embargo. Libya asked the committee for weapons and military equipment to take on Islamist militants and to control borders.
“While the threat posed by terrorist groups in Libya is a major challenge for the authorities, the panel is concerned about the possible use of this materiel in attacks on areas and installations under the control of rival militias, which are not terrorist groups,” the panel wrote to the council committee.
Libya has sought U.N. permission to import 150 tanks, two dozen fighter jets, seven attack helicopters, tens of thousands of assault rifles and grenade launchers and millions of rounds of ammunition from Ukraine, Serbia and Czech Republic.
The panel wrote that because the composition of the Libyan armed forces was unclear it is “concerned about transfers of materiel...to non-state actors.”
Libya’s U.N. mission was not immediately available to comment on the experts’ letter.
Libya, backed by Egypt, has called for the arms embargo on the government to be lifted entirely. The council committee has long urged Libya to improve monitoring of its weapons over concerns that arms were being diverted to militant groups.
The U.N. sanctions monitors said last month that Libyan authorities are unable to halt the illicit trade in oil or the flow of weapons and need help from an international maritime force.