Peter Hoskin

Another Libyan question

Another Libyan question
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Far from quiet on Libya's shifting battlefront. The latest reports are that the rebel advance has stalled, and is now moving backwards in the face of Gaddafi's overwhelming firepower. Yet as disheartening as this development may be, it is hardly unexpected: America's General Ham all but described it as an inevitability only a couple of days ago. And so the rebels' representatives have now made an equally inevitable demand of the politicians congregating in London: arm us, and we can make progress once again.

In which case, there's another question for the pile: to arm, or not to arm? And it is not clear-cut, either way. While the West appears keen to eject Gaddafi without pressing the Big Red Button itself, the idea of advanced weaponry filtering into the hands of the rebels' less, erm, liberal-minded comrades is not a happy one. Yet refuse them that weaponry, and the rebels may just turn away from the West, towards those less liberal actors, anyway.

For now the issue seems to have been parked — William Hague has claimed that it wasn't discussed during today's conference. But should the rebels keep retracing their boot steps, back away from Tripoli, then expect the question to arise again and again.