LONDON, March 18 (Reuters) - Egypt’s military has begun shipping arms over the border to Libyan rebels with Washington’s knowledge, The Wall Street Journal reported on Friday.
Quoting U.S. and Libyan rebel officials, the newspaper said the shipments were mostly of small arms such as assault rifles and ammunition.
It appeared to be the first case of an outside government arming the rebel fighters, the newspaper said.
Rebels have been losing ground for days in the face of an advance by forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi.
The rebels have, however, been buoyed by the decision on Thursday by the United Nations Security Council to authorise air strikes in an attempt to curb Gaddafi’s forces.
The Journal reported that Egyptian weapons transfers began “a few days ago” and are continuing, according to a senior U.S. official.
“There’s no formal U.S. policy or acknowledgement that this is going on,” said the official. But “this is something we have knowledge of”.
There was no official Egyptian confirmation of the shipments, the newspaper said. The Unied States is a major ally and supplier of military aid to Egypt.
“We know the Egyptian military council is helping us, but they can’t be so visible,” said Hani Souflakis, a Libyan businessman in Cairo who has been acting as a rebel liaison with the Egyptian government since the uprising began, according to the newspaper.
“Weapons are getting through,” said Souflakis. “Americans have given the green light to the Egyptians to help. The Americans don’t want to be involved in a direct level, but the Egyptians wouldn’t do it if they didn’t get the green light.”
A spokesman for the rebel government in Benghazi said arms shipments had begun arriving to the rebels but declined to specify where they came from, the Journal said. (Writing by Giles Elgood; editing by Andrew Roche)