US, allies plan to arm Libyan rebels against Gaddafi
With seven days of coalition air strike yet to topple the Gaddafi regime, the allies are contemplating whether to supply arms to the opposition as their airstrikes fail to dislodge government forces from around key contested towns, The Washington Post reported today quoting US and European officials.
France actively supports training and arming the rebels, and the Obama administration believes the UN resolution that authorised international intervention in Libya has the "flexibility" to allow such assistance, "if we thought that were the right way to go," Obama spokesman Jay Carney said. It was a "possibility," he added.
Gene Cretz, the recently withdrawn US ambassador to Libya, said administration officials were having "the full gamut" of discussions on "potential assistance we might offer, both on the non-lethal and the lethal side," but that no decisions had been made.
The coalition has stepped up its outreach to the opposition, inviting one of its senior leaders to a high-level international conference in London on Tuesday, called to determine future political strategy in Libya.
Increased focus on aiding the rebels came as NATO reached final agreement on taking over command and control of all aspects of the Libya operation, including US-led airstrikes against forces loyal to the Libyan strongman.
Meanwhile, US President Barack Obama, in his weekly address today, said the military mission in Libya is succeeding even as responsibility is transferred to NATO.
"We`re succeeding in our mission. We`ve taken out Libya`s air defences. Gaddafi`s forces are no longer advancing across Libya. In places like Benghazi, a city of some 700,000 that Gaddafi threatened to show `no mercy,` his forces have been pushed back," he said.
According to reports, Libyan rebels today seized control of the strategic oil town of Ajdabiya while huge explosions shook a military site in an eastern suburb of Tripoli.