U.S. to give $25 million to Libyan rebels in support

A Libyan rebel fighter smokes a cigarette next to a multiple rocket launcher in the back of a pickup truck, as the rebels prepare to make an advance, in the desert on the outskirts of Ajdabiya, Libya.

The U.S. dismissing concerns over possible links between Libyan rebels and al Qaeda, will give $25 million to Libyan opposition rebel groups in an effort to help combat and take on  Col. Gadhafi and his forces from power.

The US plans to send $25m worth of non-lethal equipment to the rebel opposition in eastern Libya, in a move likely to further entangle the west in the two-month-old civil war.

The proposal to send surplus Pentagon equipment, including vehicles, medical supplies, protective vests, binoculars and radios, follows Italy’s decision to join Britain and France in sending military advisers to the Libyan opposition and a French pledge to intensify air strikes.

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

The Libyan government has warned that such moves will further prolong the conflict and “encourage the other side to be more defiant”.

The US plan, which must be approved by President Barack Obama, is to send “non-lethal assistance” to the Transitional National Council in Benghazi, the de facto opposition government which has not been recognised by Washington. The dispatch of the surplus US stock does not need approval from Congress.

As Natoair strikes were reported to have hit Libyan government targets near Ajdabiya in the east, and south of Tripoli in the west, the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, promised to escalate military action to protect civilians. He told opposition leader Mustafa Abdel-Jalil: “We will intensify the strikes. We will help you.”

Rebel fighters have repeatedly appealed to Nato and the international community to step up its bombardment of Libyan government forces and military targets. Nato insists its air strikes have been effective in reducing Gaddafi’s military capability, but the action has failed to help the rebels advance.

This is a continuation of more recognition by the opposition and rebel forces in Libya by the international community.

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