Obama authorizes secret support for Libya rebels

WASHINGTON, (Reuters) – President Barack Obama has  signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. government  support for rebel forces seeking to oust Libyan leader Muammar  Gaddafi, government officials told Reuters today.
Obama signed the order, known as a presidential “finding”,  within the last two or three weeks, according to four U.S.  government sources familiar with the matter.
Such findings are a principal form of presidential  directive used to authorize secret operations by the Central  Intelligence Agency. The CIA and the White House declined  immediate comment.
News that Obama had given the authorization surfaced as the  President and other U.S. and allied officials spoke openly  about the possibility of sending arms supplies to Gaddafi’s  opponents, who are fighting better-equipped government forces.
The United States is part of a coalition, with NATO members  and some Arab states, which is conducting air strikes on Libyan  government forces under a U.N. mandate aimed at protecting  civilians opposing Gaddafi.
In interviews with American TV networks on Tuesday, Obama  said the objective was for Gaddafi to “ultimately step down”  from power. He spoke of applying “steady pressure, not only  militarily but also through these other means” to force Gaddafi  out.
Obama said the U.S. had not ruled out providing military  hardware to rebels. “It’s fair to say that if we wanted to get  weapons into Libya, we probably could. We’re looking at all our  options at this point,” the President told ABC News anchor  Diane Sawyer.
U.S. officials monitoring events in Libya say that at  present, neither Gaddafi’s forces nor the rebels, who have  asked the West for heavy weapons, appear able to make decisive  gains.
While U.S. and allied airstrikes have seriously damaged  Gaddafi’s military forces and disrupted his chain of command,  officials say, rebel forces remain disorganized and unable to  take full advantage of western military support.

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