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Russia says Libya training Syria rebels
Security Council meeting told of "centre for arming fighters" as the US hints at giving direct 'non-lethal' aid.
Last Modified: 08 Mar 2012 00:43
Libya's prime minister did not respond to Churkin's accusation that Libya was training Syrian rebels [Reuters]

Russia has accused Libya during a UN Security Council meeting of running a training centre for Syrian rebels and arming the fighters in their battle to overthrow President Bashar al-Assad.

"We have received information that in Libya, with the support of the authorities, that there is a special training center for the Syrian revolutionaries and people are sent to Syria to attack the legal government," Vitaly Churkin, Russia's ambassador to the UN, told the Security Council on Wednesday.

"This is completely unacceptable ...this activity is undermining stability in the Middle East," said Churkin, who questioned whether "the export of revolution" was "turning into the export of terrorism."

Churkin also demanded that NATO recognise its air strikes to help Libyan rebels topple Muammar Gaddafi caused civilian casualties and pay compensation.

Rights groups have said several dozen civilians were killed by NATO air strikes in Libya.

While Abdurrahim El-Keib, the Libyan prime minister, did not respond to Churkin's accusation that Libya was training Syrian rebels, he told the UN Security Council that Libya has already investigated the deaths of all civilians during the fighting.

"I hope that the reason for raising this matter will not be to impede or prevent the international community from interfering in the situation of other states where their peoples are being massacred and killed at the hands of their rulers," Keib said.

Libya said last month that it would donate $100 million in humanitarian aid to the Syrian opposition and allow them to open an office in Tripoli.

US weighs 'non-lethal' aid
 
Meanwhile, US defense secretary Leon Panetta told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Washington is looking at delivering non-lethal aid to the rebels.

Asked by Senator Richard Blumenthal if the US was ready to deliver communications equipment to Syrian rebels, Panetta said: "I'd prefer to discuss that in a closed session but I can tell you that we're considering an array of non-lethal assistance."

His answer marked the first time President Barack Obama's administration had suggested it was ready to provide direct assistance to the rebels.

Panetta condemned the regime's violent crackdown but expressed caution about military intervention, citing a lack of international consensus, a deeply divided resistance and the risk of fueling a civil war.

Some Republican lawmakers, including Senator John McCain, have called for US air strikes to support the Syrian rebels and warned that time is of the essence to protect threatened civilians.

US military role has so far been limited to sharing intelligence with regional partners, its top officer, General Martin Dempsey said. "But should we be called on to help secure US interests in other ways, we will be ready." 

The military had prepared contingency plans for possible intervention at the request of the White House, but the president has not yet been briefed and a more detailed operational plan has yet to be drawn up, said Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The military options include imposing a no-fly zone, naval "interdiction" and "limited aerial strikes," he said.

Source:
Agencies
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