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Thursday, 17 March 2011

Egypt to Assist Rebels in Libya: WSJ Reports

The Wall Street Journal Reports:

The WSJ has reported in the last few hours that Egypt has begun supplying the rebel forces in Libya around the same time that UN Security Council voted in favour of a no-fly zone over Libya. 

The shipments, so far appear to be small arms in the form of assault rifles and ammunition. This 11th hour intervention by Egypt provides much needed support to the rebel forces who over the last week have been losing ground to the better armed, better trained Gaddafi forces.

Arab states unwillingness to act on behalf on the Libyan rebels has been both a source of frustration and division between them and western governments.  Tonight's action by Egypt comes on the back of an unusually strong diplomatic response to this escalating crisis as the 23 member Arab League voted in favour of a no-fly zone over Libya.

As a direct result of this vote by the Arab League, Britain and France were given a much needed diplomatic boost in their bid to put a no-fly zone into place. Initially the talk of a no-fly zone by David Cameron the British Prime Minister three weeks ago was slapped down by the US Secretary of Defence Robert Gates as "loose talk".

Lebanon was the linchpin in establishing the necessary framework for the UN resolution which called for "all necessary means" to force a ban on flights over Libya. Additional Arab support came from the UAE and Qatar who have taken a lead in enforcing a no-fly zone according to UN diplomats.

In recent days, Egyptian and Qatari flags have been flown in the rebel held town of Benghazi in a clear show of appreciation for the support been offered by the two countries in their hour of need. The US appears to turning a blind eye to the military support been offered by Egypt as one US official put it "there's no formal US policy or acknowledgement of what is going on", adding "it is something that we are aware of."

Due to after-effects of the war in Iraq and the ongoing war in Afghanistan, as well as continued public distrust in the Arab region and at home, the US has been reluctant to get directly involved in the crisis in the Middle East.

However the US has stated clearly in public that it wants Gaddafi out and has signalled it would support those offering help to the rebels militarily or otherwise.

The UN resolution has now, potentially put the final nail in the coffin, as far as Gaddafi's grip on power is concerned.


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