Cameron may arm rebels in bid to end stalemate
Published 27/04/2011 | 05:00
Britain could arm the Libyan rebels to avert a lengthy stalemate in the country, according to David Cameron.
The British Prime Minister has written that he has not ruled out "supplying lethal equipment" to the rebels.
Leading Conservatives echoed the mood of pessimism. William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, warned ministers to "prepare for the long haul" in Libya and a defence minister said the conflict "may go on for considerably longer" than first anticipated.
The military intervention against Col Muammar Gaddafi's forces is in its sixth week. The rebels have failed to make significant progress.
Mr Cameron wrote of his concerns in a letter to Bill Cash, the senior Conservative MP who first raised the prospect of arming the rebels last month.
"We do not rule out supplying lethal equipment," he wrote. "But we have not taken a decision to do so and there remain legal and practical questions."
A United Nations embargo forbids sending weapons to Libya, and ministers have previously suggested it would rule out supplying any lethal military gear to the rebels.
Mr Hague told MPs that Britain did not believe the ban on arms was absolute.
"In certain circumstances, it is legal under the UN resolution to supply equipment to protect civilian life," he said.
In Washington, Dr Liam Fox, the British Defence Secretary, said after a meeting yesterday with his US counterpart Robert Gates, that the allies were gaining momentum.
"We have seen some momentum in the last few days," he said. "It's very clear that the regime is on the back foot."
British and French planes on Monday struck a building in Tripoli used by Gaddafi.
The attack raised speculation that the allies were directly targeting the Libyan leader, a prospect that was condemned by Russia. Vladimir Putin, the Russian premier, said the mission had exceeded its mandate by trying to kill Gaddafi.
Mr Hague said he would not discuss detailed targeting decisions. (© Daily Telegraph, London)