The United States was drawn deeper into the conflict in Libya this week as top government officials confirmed that it would be supplying $25 million in “non-lethal” military aid to the rebel groups fighting the forces of Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi.

While foreign policy circles here have been buzzing with talk of arming rebel groups, the Obama administration informed Congress this week that the U.S. would provide the rebel Transitional National Council with existing Pentagon stocks of medical supplies, uniforms, boots, tents, personal protective gear, radios and Halal meals, officials said.

Initially, the administration had proposed supplying the rebels with vehicles and portable fuel storage tanks but those items were dropped from the list of potential aid on Wednesday after concerns were expressed that they could be converted into offensive military assets, the officials said.

Media reports said that while initially the administration intended to provide the rebels, primarily based out of Benghazi, with vehicles and portable fuel storage tanks, “those items were dropped from the list of potential aid... after concerns were expressed that they could be converted into offensive military assets.”

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was quoted as supporting the provision on “non-lethal” supplies to the rebel groups, arguing that the aid would support U.S. efforts “to protect civilians and the civilian populated areas that are under threat of attack from their own government in Libya.”

Aid would be “drawn down from items already in government stocks that correspond with the needs that we have heard from the Transitional National Council,” Ms. Clinton said, however adding, “This is not a blank check.”

Thus far the Pentagon was said to have spent $608 million on operations in Libya, according to Politco magazine, and Defence Secretary Robert Gates said at a Congressional hearing last month that if operations continued at planned levels, they would cost about $40 million per month.

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