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Minsk slams AP over reports of Belarusian mercenaries in Libya

RIA Novosti

13:59 15/04/2011

MINSK, April 15 (RIA Novosti) - The Belarusian Foreign Ministry accused The Associated Press news agency on Friday of intentionally misquoting a UN official in a report on the presence of Belarusian mercenaries in Libya.

The Associated Press reported earlier in April that hundreds of foreign mercenaries, including from Belarus, were likely fighting on the side of both Muammar Gaddafi's forces and rebels in Libya. The agency quoted the head of UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries Jose Luis Gomez del Prado.

Belarus immediately denied the allegations and demanded an official investigation by UN officials.

"It has been established that the UN official [Jose del Prado] told the American journalist that he had no information and therefore could not confirm the presence of any Belarusian mercenaries in Libya," said Andrei Savinykh, a spokesman for the Belarusian Foreign Ministry.

"The fact can be deemed proof that The Associated Press is a hired propaganda outlet and tool," Savynykh said.

The Belarusian diplomat criticized Western journalists for their propensity to "effortlessly step over the conventional democratic standards when it is convenient to them and in line with the interests of their sponsors."

In similar circumstances, UN officials claimed in late February that Belarus had delivered three attack helicopters to the Ivory Coast in violation of a UN arms embargo. The UN later retracted the claim and apologized to Minsk for the embarrassing incident.



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