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Libya coalition: next step could be arms to rebels
Date 30/03/2011 17:41  Author webmaster  Hits 1215  Language Global
30 MAR 2011

By Andrew Rettman

EUOBSERVER / BRUSSELS - Delegates at a London meeting of the anti-Gaddafi coalition have hinted they may start giving weapons to rebels and underlined Arab endorsement of Western bombings.

Speaking at an event entitled The London Conference on Libya in the UK capital on Tuesday (29 March), US secretary of state Hilary Clinton and British foreign minister William Hague said UN Security Council resolution 1973 makes it legal to give guns to rebel forces.

"It is our interpretation that 1973 amended or over-rode the absolute prohibition of providing arms to anyone in Libya, so there could be a legitimate transfer of arms if a country were to choose to do that," Clinton said.

"We haven't made any decision about arming the rebels, so there was no need to discuss this today. We did discuss non-lethal assistance. We did discuss other means of support ... they obviously are going to need funds to keep them going."

When asked by press on arms transfers, Qatari PM Hamad Bin Jabr Al Thani noted: "We have to find a way to stop this bloodshed. We are still in the first few days of this mission [the no-fly zone] and we will have to evaluate it some days later."

Anti-Gaddafi forces have suffered setbacks in a battle for the town of Sirte since the weekend. But giving out guns poses the risk they could end up in dangerous hands.

Speaking earlier the same day at a hearing in the Senate, US admiral James Stavridis said there are "flickers of intelligence" that fighters from militant Islamist groups al-Qaeda and Hezbollah are taking part in the anti-Gaddafi action.

"We do not have any information about specific individuals from any organisation that are part of this. But of course, we are still getting to know the people leading the Transitional National Council [TNC]," Clinton said in London, after meeting a TNC leader, Mahmood Gebril, in the UK capital earlier in the day.

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See also:
US and Britain may arm Libya rebels if Gaddafi clings to power (Guardian)
Libya: Britain considers arming rebels (Telegraph)
Is it legal to arm the Libyan rebels? (BBC)