Libya: Obama Approves Covert Aid to Opposition - Report

13 May 2011

Western nations are stepping up their support for forces opposing Muammar al-Gaddafi, with one report suggesting that President Barack Obama has recently approved secret aid to support their fight against the Libyan leader's rule.

A delegation from the Libyan Transitional National Council is scheduled to meet Obama administration officials at the White House on Friday, a day after British Prime Minister David Cameron invited the council to establish a formal office in London.

In what Reuters bills as an exclusive report, the news agency says it has learned from unnamed U.S. government officials that President Obama has signed a presidential "finding" approving covert aid in the last two or three weeks.

Reuters says the Central Intelligence Agency declined to comment, and quotes White House spokesman Jay Carney saying he would follow the standard practice of not commenting on intelligence issues.

The agency quotes Carney as adding: "I will reiterate what the president said yesterday -- no decision has been made about providing arms to the opposition or to any group in Libya."

The announcement that the Libyan opposition had been favoured with a White House meeting came from Obama's National Security Advisor, Tom Donilon.

He said on Thursday he looked forward to welcoming a delegation headed by Dr. Mahmoud Gibril.

"This is Dr. Gibril’s first official visit to Washington as president of the Transitional National Council’s Executive Bureau," Donilon added. "Dr. Gibril will also be meeting senior administration officials and members of Congress during his visit.”

In a statement issued after meeting the the council in London, Prime Minister Cameron said the British presence in the opposition stronghold of Benghazi would be strengthened.

Cameron described Gaddafi as "tyrant who is still today killing innocent people.

“It is impossible to imagine a real future for Libya with Gaddafi in power," he added. "The council represents the future of Libya as much as Gaddafi represents its past.”

After a separate meeting, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said his government would provide more support "to help the protection of civilians", including bullet proof vests, police uniforms and communications equipment.

Hague said financial support for the opposition would also begin to flow soon through a "Temporary Financial Mechanism (TFM)".

He added that he and the Libyans had also agreed on what he said was "the importance of continuing to target Qadhafi’s forces and command and control centres to protect civilians... The tempo of strikes and military pressure will continue to increase."

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