Documents reveal China may have armed Gadhafi forces

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Story from PRI's The World. Listen to audio above for full report.

While walking through a wealthy neighborhood in Tripoli, Canadian journalist Graeme Smith came across  stacks of papers on the side of a road. Among the papers, Smith found a document that may be politically explosive. "My eye was caught by some maps fluttering in the wind that appeared to be tactical maps," he told PRI's The World. "They had drawings of troop placements. There were high-quality satellite photographs of Misrata."

Smith found interrogation records, signed confessions, and "a four page memo, written on the letterhead of the supply authority, the procurement authority for the Libyan government, that appeared to document a business trip of a Libyan delegation to Beijing in July."

The delegation apparently visited three Chinese, state-run firms and "asked them whether they could get any weapons from them," Smith told The World. "To their delight, apparently, the answer was, 'yes, of course.' We can supply everything we have in our arsenal."

No evidence has emerged that the Chinese weapons actually made it onto the battle field, but former rebel fighters are convinced that they did. The weapons were mostly conventional arms, like AK-47s, though there were also weapons that looked like thermobaric weapons and surface-to-air weapons.

Though the alegations against China are serious, Smith doubts whether or not it will have a real effect. "My sense is that it will be politically embarrassing for China," he says, "but there will likely not be any major legal consequences."

Read a transcript of this interview on The World website.


PRI's "The World" is a one-hour, weekday radio news magazine offering a mix of news, features, interviews, and music from around the globe. "The World" is a co-production of the BBC World Service, PRI and WGBH Boston. More about The World.