- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 21, 2011

Libyan rebels have asked their international allies, including the U.S., for heavy weaponry to help them topple Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s regime and capture the capital, Tripoli.

“We have asked for weapons that will turn the tide in the war within days,” rebel spokesman Mohamed, who gave only his first name citing the sensitive nature of the subject, told The Washington Times.

The rebels want medium and heavy artillery, better coordination with NATO and close air support. NATO forces have been bombing the regime’s troops in an attempt to protect civilians and ease the pressure on the rebels.

“What NATO can achieve in two months, with the proper weapons we will achieve in two weeks,” Mohamed said.

The rebels also have asked the U.S. to provide military training to their fighters, many of whom had no military experience before the uprising started in February.

Similar requests have been made to France, Spain and the rebels’ Arab allies, including the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Qatar.

The rebels hope to make gains before the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan in August, when fighting is expected to diminish.

So far, the U.S. has not given military aid but has provided nonlethal assistance to the rebels’ Transitional National Council.

“We have not taken a decision to provide lethal military assistance at this time, although we are certainly aware of reports of some our partners considering such an effort,” State Department spokesman Noel Clay told The Times.

Buoyed by recent U.S. recognition of the Transitional National Council as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people, the rebels are hopeful that their demands will be met.

“We think recognition from the U.S. will bring more arms,” Mohamed said.

The Transitional National Council has an arms committee that is charged with examining offers of material support from various governments. The rebels say they are in urgent need of weapons to fight pro-Gadhafi forces in the Nafusa Mountains in the west and at the besieged Mediterranean cities of Misrata and Brega, a strategic oil port.

A delegation of rebels met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy at the Elysees Palace in Paris on Wednesday. The delegation included Gen. Ramadan Zarmuh, Col. Ahmed Hashem, Col. Brahim Betal Mal and Suleiman Fortea, a member of the rebel council.

They urged Mr. Sarkozy to give them heavy weapons so they can take their fight to Tripoli, according to rebel sources.

Mahmoud Jibril, the interim prime minister of the rebel council, made a similar demand in his meeting with Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez on Thursday.

In June, France dropped guns and rocket-propelled grenades for the rebels in the Nafusa Mountains. Britain has provided nonlethal aid, including 5,000 sets of body armor and communications equipment, to the police force loyal to the opposition.

The rebels describe the military aid they have received so far as “defensive” and not enough to mount any meaningful offensive.

France dropped some Kalashnikovs, but these aren’t game changers,” Mohamed said. “We need game changers.”

U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973 imposed a no-fly zone and an arms embargo on Libya. The resolution also permits member states to take “all means necessary” to protect civilians.

On Thursday, Col. Gadhafi made it clear how unlikely a negotiated solution has become, telling a rally of supporters in his home city of Sirte there will be no talks with the rebels in this lifetime.

“There will be no talks between me and them until Judgment Day,” the Libyan leader said via a remotely delivered audio message reported by Reuters news agency. “They need to talk with the Libyan people and they will respond to them.”

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