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Posted at 03:06 PM ET, 03/30/2011

White House won’t say if U.S. will arm rebels in Libya

White House officials said Wednesday that President Obama is still trying to decide if the U.S. will provide arms to Libyan rebels who have retreated the last two days from forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. 

“He’s not ruling something in or ruling anything out in terms of lethal assistance to the opposition,” said White House Press Secretary Jay Carney.

 Carney said American officials believe Gaddafi is gradually losing power both politically and militarily in the North African nation. “The trend we think is clear,” he said.

He would not offer details on the administration’s deliberations on if, how or when the U.S would provide arms to the rebels.

The rebels were driven from Bin Jawwad on Tuesday, and from Ras Lanuf and Brega on Wednesday, as they were attacked by Gaddafi troops with rockets and mortars.

 Carney met with reporters Wednesday afternoon, while a team of top administration officials headed to Capitol Hill for a closed-door briefing to brief members of Congress on the administration’s Libya policy.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Defense Secretary Robert Gates, national intelligence chief James Clapper and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, were scheduled to meet with legislators from both parties, many of whom have strongly criticized the U.S. policy in Libya.

 The Libya briefings came as the administration shifted to domestic policy issues on Wednesday, with Obama laying out an ambitious energy plan that he hopes will reduce U.S. oil imports by one-third by 2025.

 White House officials said the speech was the start of a push by the administration on energy issues, following the sharp rise of gas prices over the last month.

 At the same time, the administration tried to manage two complicated situations that are dominating the time of Obama and his aides: Libya and the funding of the federal government. Vice-President Biden met early Wednesday with White House Budget Director Jacob Lew and Gene Sperling, head of the National Economic Council, the two officials who are leading the administration’s strategy on the impasse over government funding.

 Unless some kind of spending agreement is reached, the government could shut down on April 8.

By Perry Bacon Jr.  |  03:06 PM ET, 03/30/2011

 
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