Belarus exporting weapons to Libya?
A Swedish government-funded project aimed at finding air cargo planes that carry both weapons and then humanitarian aid says that Belarus has sent planes carrying weapons to beleaguered Libyan dictator Col Gadaffi. There are now fears those weapons could be used against the pro-democracy protestors in the east of the country.
Hugh Griffiths from the Ethical Cargo project at the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, which has been tracking the planes in and out of Tripoli for some time, says that Libya has long been used as a refuelling point for planes flying from Eastern Europe to sub-Saharan Africa, but recently the planes have been staying in Tripoli.
"We noticed some flights into Libya from Belarus", he told Radio Sweden, "One flight we pinpointed on the 15th of February was from Baranovichi, a military airbase. It's also a major stockpile of arms and light weapons, surplus material left over from the Cold War. It's not a place where civilian cargo is picked up from"
Belarus has denied the accusations, and claimed it is part of a mudslinging campaign against the country. SIPRI's Hugh Griffiths denies this:
"I guess they would deny it, but there is data to support this. This is Belarus and I think they regard themselves as a democratic state in their media releases, this is a country which is run by Europe's last totalitarian regime."
Griffiths adds that the links between Libya and Belarus could be helpful for Gaddafi and his family.
"They would be useful for members of Gaddafis entourage, some members of his family, who don't fancy dying in Tripoli. Lukashenka hasn't distanced himself from Gaddafi. Belarus is a pariah state, or Lukashenka is a pariah figure, and he would certainly welcome members of Gaddafi's entourage in a way that say, the UK, wouldn't. There is no freeze on Gaddafi's or Libyan assets in Belarus, and no effective way of monitoring any asset freeze that the Belarusians say they are implementing."
He adds, "It's the kind of place where large quantities of valuable commodities could be flown from Libya, we're talking about gold and diamonds, relatively lightweight commodities which have a very high value per kilogram, which could then be transformed into other forms of wealth, including hard currency in Belarus. That's the kind of facility that Lukashenka's regime could afford Gaddafi and members of his entourage", Hugh Griffiths from Ethical Cargo told Radio Sweden.