The Serbian government denied media reports today that its pilots or ground crews had been involved in Libyan air force bombing missions against protesters, and said it was suspending all its arms exports to the country.
“No active or retired Serbian military personnel were involved in the events in Libya and we deny all such media reports,” the Defense Ministry said in a statement.
According to Arab and Maltese reports, Serb mercenary pilots took part in bombing runs against protesters in the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Benghazi.
“No Serbian military aircraft or personnel are involved in any activities outside Serbia,” the ministry statement said.
Libya has several ex-Yugoslav-made Galeb G2 and Jastreb J1 jet trainers and light attack aircraft, as well as combat vehicles, artillery pieces and small arms.
“The serviceability of these aircraft is questionable and most are decades old and likely beyond repair,” a military official said on condition not to be named.
“Former Yugoslavia was sending personnel there as instructors, but that was decades ago.”
According to official data, Serbia’s state-run weapons exporter Yugoimport SDPR has however exported to Libya over the past decade.
The defense ministry said it had “suspended all joint activities with Libya at the moment due to ongoing developments”.
“The Serbian budget could suffer to a degree because of potential loss of revenues from defence exports. We will likely resume cooperation with Libya as soon as situation there is back to normal and only after consulting Western partners,” the military official said.
Serbia has evacuated most of its nationals, most of whom had been working for international companies in Libya.
Serbia’s Defense Minister Dragan Sutanovac said earlier this year the government was eyeing a US$400 million (RM1.22 billion)-worth development of a military hospital in Libya.
Serbia’s state-run defense industry has secured about US$1.2 billion in export contracts since 2008. It is eyeing more multimillion deals, mainly to African and Asian countries, a major comeback after a ban because of United Nations sanctions during the 1991-1999 wars and Nato bombing in 1999. — Reuters