ANALYSIS-Western help may test Libyan rebels' credibility

Thu Mar 31, 2011 9:27am GMT

* Western powers discuss arms supplies

* Obama OKs covert help

* Once in power, rebels could rue Western help

By William Maclean, Security Correspondent

LONDON, March 31 (Reuters) - More Western military help may strengthen Libyan rebels on the battlefield but at the price of a propaganda boost for Muammar Gaddafi, quick to portray his foes as lackeys of the West.

Mindful of the importance of the information war in Libya's conflict, opposition leaders desperate for foreign weapons will have to take care not to create an image of subservience to Western powers in the event their request is met, analysts say.

Militarily vulnerable on the ground and dependent on Western-led patrols in the air, the rebels' main card is their status as the spearhead of an authentic, homegrown uprising against Gaddafi's long rule.

"There is a very fine line for the rebels," said independent U.S. analyst Geoff Porter. "The more they seem to be the proxies of the U.S. and Europe trying to oust Gaddafi, the less organic and legitimate their movement becomes."   Continued...

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