Arms watchdog suspects Belarus-Libya transports

By LOUISE NORDSTROM
The Associated Press
Monday, February 28, 2011; 3:50 PM

STOCKHOLM -- An arms trade watchdog says it suspects Libya received a shipment of military equipment from Belarus as Moammar Gadhafi's regime started a bloody crackdown on anti-government protesters.

The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, or SIPRI, said Monday that an Ilyushin 76 aircraft left a military base near the Belarusian city of Baranovichi and landed at the Libyan airport of Sebha in mid-February.

That was before the U.N. Security Council adopted a weapons embargo on Libya.

"The aircraft came from a dedicated military base that only handles stockpiled weaponry and military equipment," SIPRI arms trafficking expert Hugh Griffiths said.

The Sebha airport where the plane landed is Gadhafi's "key military logistics space in southern Libya," Griffiths said, adding the area is controlled by a tribe loyal to the Libyan leader.

He also said a Libyan government plane has made two flights to Belarus in the past week, though it was unclear who was on board or what cargo it was carrying.

SIPRI closely monitors weapons transfers around the world. Its annual yearbook is considered one of the most authoritative reviews on the global arms trade.



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