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Libyan Opposition Welcomes ‘Non-Lethal’ US Aid

  • Peter Clottey

A Libyan rebel fighter manning an anti-aircraft gun flashes the victory sign as his vehicle advances towards the front line, on the outskirts of Ajdabiya, Libya, April 20, 2011

A Libyan rebel fighter manning an anti-aircraft gun flashes the victory sign as his vehicle advances towards the front line, on the outskirts of Ajdabiya, Libya, April 20, 2011

A member of the rebels fighting to oust Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has welcomed reports that the Obama administration is considering providing $25 million in non-lethal assistance to the rebel leadership, the Transitional National Council.

It includes medical supplies, uniforms, boots, tents, radios and personal protective gear.

Awad Juma said Libya’s opposition also wants the international community, including NATO, to help end the humanitarian crisis by putting more pressure on the Gadhafi government to stop attacking unarmed civilians.

“We welcome this civilized cause as long as it protects civilians and provides shelter for the needy. I hope and expect more from the free world under the leadership of the United States,” said Juma.

His comments came after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said there are reports that pro-government forces may have used cluster bombs against rebels in Misrata, Libya’s third largest city.

Clinton did not provide details, but she said government forces there are engaging in what she called “deplorable” activities that target civilians and cause enormous suffering and death.

Cluster bombs scatter small deadly fragments across a wide area.

The U.S. secretary of state expressed deep regret for all loss of life and said she was especially saddened by the deaths of two journalists killed in Misrata.

She said the international community remains united in its resolve, and she repeated calls for Mr. Gadhafi to step down.

Juma said forces loyal to the Libyan leader are shelling areas under rebel control, despite the recent U.N. resolution calling for the protection of unarmed civilians.

“This is the seventh week that Misrata is under siege. [It’s] under constant bombardment by Gadhafi’s troops [but] I can’t see any protection for civilians. We need to protect civilians [and] what we need are for NATO’s [airstrikes] to be more efficient hitting the targets [pro-government forces],” said Juma.

“Giving more time to discuss where to hit and where not to hit [government troops], this is giving more time to Gadhafi to [attack] the Libyan people. We have said it before that if they supply us with efficient weapons, we are capable of defending ourselves,” he added.

This week, Britain, France and Italy announced they will send military advisors to help the rebels with logistics and communications equipment.

Rebels have said they are receiving limited supplies of weapons from what they call “friends” and from sales on the international market. The Libyan government has accused Qatar of supplying anti-tank weapons to the rebels. Qatari officials say the U.N. resolution protecting Libyan civilians allows them to provide “defensive weapons” against pro-Gadhafi forces.

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