Tripoli: A senior Libyan official on Tuesday ruled out the possibility of allowing foreign troops to escort humanitarian aid convoys in Libya, saying such a deployment would be viewed as military, not humanitarian.
The remarks came as British Foreign Secretary William Hague said his country is sending military advisers to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi in eastern Libya to help organize the haphazard opposition forces with communications and logistics — although they would not be involved in supplying weapons to the rebels or assist with fighting.
The European Union is drawing up contingency plans for such humanitarian aid escorts, who would have a noncombat role, according to the British daily The Guardian. The newspaper quoted unidentified diplomats as saying such plans would not be finalized unless the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs requests such assistance.
Over the weekend, the U.N. reached agreement with Moammar Gadhafi`s regime on carrying out aid operations in areas of Libya he controls. A key destination for such aid would be the besieged rebel city of Misrata, pounded in recent days by Libyan artillery.
The U.N. has said it has been promised access to Misrata, Libya`s third-largest city, but has received no guarantees from Libyan authorities that fighting would be halted to allow aid to reach Misrata.
Asked about the possibility of foreign troop escorts of aid convoys, Deputy Foreign Minister Khaled Kaim said "if there is any deployment of any armed personnel on Libyan ground, there will be fighting, and the Libyan government will not take this as a humanitarian mission" but as a military one.
Asked whether he would rule out such deployment, he told reporters: "Yes, because we are doing our utmost not to resort to such things." He said the Libyan government has repeatedly offered to help humanitarian agencies do their work.