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West considers arming Libyan rebels


Libyan rebels are seen with a rocket launcher as they leave Ras Lanouf, Libya, Wednesday. Moammar Gadhafi's ground forces recaptured a strategic oil town Wednesday and were close to taking a second, making new inroads in beating back a rebel advance toward the capital Tripoli.

From NBC's Courtney Kube
A senior European diplomat says that the coalition of nations involved in the operations in Libya are now considering arming the opposition forces.

The diplomat said that providing arms to opposition forces in Libya "has to be a serious option" and that the coalition is considering that option "now."

The diplomat warned that the coalition cannot provide arms "with closed eyes," that there has to be both coordination and training of the opposition.

"Yes, we have to be ready to continue," with enforcement of the no fly zone, protecting civilians, and the arms embargo for weeks or months, the diplomat said, but added that the coalition is "going to tip the balance" in the near future.

How? By continuing or stepping up military air strikes and possibly arming the opposition, the diplomat said.

Asked who would supply the arms, the diplomat would only say that there would be a "collective agreement" among various nations and then individual countries would supply what they could. The diplomat would not say who would provide the training, or if that would involve military forces on the ground.

Despite the fact that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said only yesterday that the U.S. is still getting to know the opposition, the diplomat today defended them, saying that the Transitional National Council is "composed of serious people who really are committed" to a democratic transition and a united Libya.

The diplomat denied that al Qaeda has much of an influence over the opposition forces in Libya, saying that his belief is the extremist element is not a major player.

The official could not point to specific arms or equipment that the coalition may provide, or how much more the coalition could do in the future, saying only that it is not for the international community to do the job for the opposition, but rather to "encourage them to be better organized."