Sunday, 4 September 2011


China offered Gadhafi huge stockpiles of arms: Libyan memos


China offered huge stockpiles of weapons to Colonel Moammar Gadhafi during the final months of his regime, according to papers that describe secret talks about shipments via Algeria and South Africa.

Documents obtained by The Globe and Mail show that state-controlled Chinese arms manufacturers were prepared to sell weapons and ammunition worth at least $200-million to the embattled Col. Gadhafi in late July, a violation of United Nations sanctions.

The documents suggest that Beijing and other governments may have played a double game in the Libyan war, claiming neutrality but covertly helping the dictator. The papers do not confirm whether any military assistance was delivered, but senior leaders of the new transitional government in Tripoli say the documents reinforce their suspicions about the recent actions of China, Algeria and South Africa. Those countries may now suffer a disadvantage as Libya’s new rulers divide the spoils from their vast energy resources, and select foreign firms for the country’s reconstruction.

Omar Hariri, chief of the transitional council’s military committee, reviewed the documents and concluded that they explain the presence of brand-new weapons his men encountered on the battlefield. He expressed outrage that the Chinese were negotiating an arms deal even while his forces suffered heavy casualties in the slow grind toward Tripoli.

“I’m almost certain that these guns arrived and were used against our people,” Mr. Hariri said.

Senior rebel officials confirmed the authenticity of the four-page memo, written in formal style on the green eagle letterhead used by a government department known as the Supply Authority, which deals with procurement. The Globe and Mail found identical letterhead in the Tripoli offices of that department. The memo was discovered in a pile of trash sitting at the curb in a neighbourhood known as Bab Akkarah, where several of Col. Gadhafi’s most loyal supporters had lavish homes.

The document reports in detail about a trip by Col. Gadhafi’s security officials from Tripoli to Beijing. They arrived on July 16, and in the following days they met with officials from three state-controlled weapons manufacturers: China North Industries Corp. (Norinco); the China National Precision Machinery Import & Export Corp. (CPMIC); and China XinXing Import & Export Corp. The Chinese companies offered the entire contents of their stockpiles for sale, and promised to manufacture more supplies if necessary.

The hosts thanked the Libyans for their discretion, emphasized the need for confidentiality, and recommended delivery via third parties.

“The companies suggest that they make the contracts with either Algeria or South Africa, because those countries previously worked with China,” the memo says.

The Chinese companies also noted that many of the items the Libyan delegation requested were already held in the arsenals of the Algerian military, and could be transported immediately across the border; the Chinese said they could replenish the Algerian stocks afterward. The memo also indicated that Algeria had not yet consented to such an arrangement, and proposed further talks at the branch offices of the Chinese companies in Algiers.

Appendices stapled to the memo, and scattered nearby, show the deadly items under discussion: truck-mounted rocket launchers; fuel-air explosive missiles; and anti-tank missiles, among others. Perhaps most controversially, the Chinese apparently offered Col. Gadhafi’s men the QW-18, a surface-to-air missile small enough for a soldier to carry on his shoulder – roughly similar to a U.S. Stinger, capable of bringing down some military aircraft.

Government spokespeople in Beijing, Algiers and Pretoria either declined to comment or could not be reached on Friday. E-mails sent to two Chinese arms manufacturers were not answered.

The three governments have been reluctant to endorse NATO’s actions in Libya, but claimed to support the arms embargo. Before abstaining from the UN resolution that authorized “all necessary measures” to protect civilians, China approved an earlier decision, Resolution 1970, that banned all military assistance to Tripoli. At the time, China’s representative at the United Nations said the “bloodshed and civilian casualties” were part of the “special circumstances” that prompted his country to vote in favour of the sanctions. South Africa also endorsed the sanctions, saying they would send a message that the Libyan regime should stop its indiscriminate use of force.

Algerian Foreign Minister Mourad Medelci issued a statement on Thursday, saying that his country had “resolutely applied” the terms of UN resolutions, and complaining about widespread rumours to the contrary.

China is blocking release of Libya's frozen assets- NTC Head

BENGHAZI, Libya, Sept 3 (Reuters) - China is obstructing the release of Libya's frozen assets, the head of Libya's National Transitional Council (NTC) Mustafa Abdel Jalil said in a news conference on Saturday.

"China is obstructing the release of Libya's frozen assets," said Abdel Jalil, adding that Libyan rebel leader Mahmoud Jibril had earlier met with a representative of the Chinese government to further understand this "unexpected position".

It was not immediately clear what the precise complaint to Beijing was. China has not joined Western powers in formally recognising the NTC as the legitimate authority in Libya, but it has acknowledged its "important role" in the country following the overthrow last week of Muammar Gaddafi.

An NTC spokesman accused China of bargaining hard to protect interests in Libya, developed during Gaddafi's rule.

Spokesman Shamsiddin Abdulmolah said that while China had agreed with other international powers on Thursday to the unfreezing of $15 billion of Libyan assets abroad, it was opposed to handing control of more to the interim ruling council.

"China is objecting to the unfreezing of all of the money but has approved of the $15 billion that is needed immediately," he said. "I'm sure they are going to use their veto card to make sure that their interests here in Libya are secure."

Under Gaddafi, Libya had built up an estimated $170 billion of assets abroad, though Western governments, anxious to see how the NTC operates as a government, have also not suggested giving immediate control of all of those investments to the council.

China's future role in Libya is seen as uncertain given its criticism of the NATO bombing campaign against forces loyal to Gaddafi. However, NTC officials have said that existing contracts, signed with the Gaddafi administration, will be honoured.

And Abdel Jalil said that China was still considered a "supporter" of the Libyan revolt since it did not use its veto in the UN Security Council to oppose the creation of a no-fly zone over Libya in March.

"China has been a supporter of the revolution as I have mentioned more than once as it abstained from using its mandate against two UN resolutions supporting Libya," he said. (Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Alastair Macdonald)

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