April 20, 2011 / 11:29 AM / in 9 years

UPDATE 1-France to send military liaison officers to Libya

* France joins Britain placing liaison officers with rebels

* French officers to number less than 10

(Adds detail, quotes)

PARIS, April 20 (Reuters) - France, jointly with Britain, will send military liaison officers to opposition rebel forces locked in a conflict with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s army.

Government spokesman Francois Baroin stressed France had no intention of sending troops into Libya, where Western powers are struggling to break a deadlock in a two-month-old conflict.

“A small number of liaison officers (will be placed) with the National Transition Council in order to organise the protection of the civilian population,” he told a news briefing.

He said they would number up to 10 and that this was an initiative in partnership with the Western-led coalition intervening in Libya.

The French officers are expected to advise rebel leaders on how to organise their ragtag forces, which are struggling against Gaddafi’s bigger, better-armed and better-trained army.

They would also liaise with NATO on the location of rebels and Gaddafi’s troops.

Britain — which along with France has been at the forefront of the intervention in Libya — said on Tuesday it was sending a dozen military officers to help Libyan insurgents improve their organisation and communications, but said they would not arm the rebels or train them to fight [ID:nLDE73I1A7].

Baroin declined to say which countries could participate, saying: “We’re not in the position to speak for other countries.”

France already has several military officials in Benghazi protecting a diplomatic envoy who has been based there for the last few weeks. (Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry and Alexandria Sage; Writing by Catherine Bremer, edited by Richard Meares)

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