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UN envoy seeks 'full clarification' on questions of UAE arms shipments to Libya

UAE minister releases statement saying country has observed 'various parameters' without mentioning questions of arms shipments
Weapons confiscated during a raid in Tripoli this month (AFP)

The UN's outgoing Libyan envoy said on Thursday that he will seek "full clarification" from United Arab Emirates authorities following reports of leaked emails that suggest the country was shipping arms to its allies in Libya in knowing violation of a UN arms embargo.

In a statement released on Thursday, Bernadino Leon said he had "decided to request a full clarification of the issue, including from the UAE authorities as I take time to reflect on the next steps in my professional career," Reuters reported. 

Leon has come under fire over the past week as a series of leaked emails have revealed that he worked covertly with the UAE to support one side of Libya's civil war while serving as the key mediator between the warring parties.

In addition to consulting with the UAE over the negotiations, another leaked email showed that Leon was also negotiating with the UAE over a $50,000-a-month job training diplomats in the UAE, the Guardian reported.

On Thursday, the New York Times reported on a third leak which suggest that the UAE was shipping weapons to Libya in violation of the UN arms embargo and with the apparent knowledge of the US government. The fresh leaked emails also make it clear that the UN was aware of a potential conflict of interest between Leon and the Gulf country.

Late Thursday, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash released a statement saying his country "has consistently supported the process for peace and moderation in the effort towards a successful transition that benefits the Libyan people and the region.

"We have duly observed various parameters: cooperation with regional powers, reaching out to all moderate elements of the Libyan political spectrum, observance of related UN resolutions and working diligently to support the process," the statement said, without discussing the arms shipments detailed in the leaked emails.

In late February, a UN panel of experts set up to monitor the arms embargo imposed in 2011 found that companies in more than a dozen countries had been shipping arms to groups fighting in Libya in violation of the embargo and that the country's capacity to prevent such shipments was "almost non-existent".

Companies from the UAE, Qatar, Turkey and Jordan, among others, were found to be arming various sides, according to the comprehensive report. 

MEE asked Farhan Haq, a spokesperson in the UN Secretary-General's office, late on Thursday whether a UN investigation had been initiated following the panel's report and, if not, whether one would be launched given the revelations in the leaked emails.

Haq said that the UN does not discuss information claimed to be leaked and that he could not speak for the panel of experts, which was a separate body from the secretary-general's office.

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