China broke UN embargo to sell arms to Gaddafi

State-controlled Chinese companies apparently sought to sell arms to the Gaddafi regime for use against the rebel army despite a UN embargo against such sales, according to official documents found in a bin in Tripoli.

The documents, uncovered by a Canadian reporter, show that members of the former Libyan government visited Beijing in July, when the war against the rebels and Nato was in full swing, and met representatives from arms companies in a bid to buy weapons from the Eastern superpower.

An invoice recovered from Libyan government files revealed lists of $200m (£124m) worth of military equipment, including pistols, weapons and rocket launchers. It was unclear whether these weapons had been paid for or delivered.

The shipments could have been delivered through countries such as Algeria or South Africa, which opposed the UN authorisation of Nato military action against Colonel Gaddafi's forces.

Chinese officials have confirmed that the visit took place but have insisted that no weapons were sold. "Chinese companies have not provided military products to Libya in any direct or indirect form," Foreign ministry spokeswoman Jiany Yu told reporters at a press conference in Beijing. She said that China strictly adheres to a UN ban on supplying arms to Gaddafi's regime and backed the role of the UN in a post-conflict Libya.

But the news could damage Beijing's relationship with the new Libyan government. A spokesman for the Transitional National Council said that the new government could bring legal action against China, possibly at the UN.

"It is not nice to have enemies. Maybe there could be a way that the situation could be resolved, but that will depend more on the Chinese government," Abdul Rahmin Busim told the AP.

China has yet to recognise Libya's new rebel-led government and abstained from the UN resolution authorising the use of force in Libya.

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