White House: We haven't decided on arming rebels

A Libyan rebel urges people to leave, as shelling from Gadhafi's forces started landing on the frontline outside of Bin Jawaad, about 90 miles east of Sirte, central Libya, Tuesday, March 29, 2011. AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus

A Libyan rebel urges people to leave, as shelling from Gadhafi's forces started landing on the frontline outside of Bin Jawaad, about 90 miles east of Sirte, central Libya, Tuesday, March 29, 2011.
AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus

Updated 6:38 p.m. Eastern Time

The White House has issued a statement maintaining that "no decision has been made about providing arms to the opposition or to any group in Libya" in the wake of a Reuters report that President Obama has signed a secret order authorizing covert U.S. support for the rebels.

CBS News has confirmed there is a finding authorizing a variety of ways to potentially aid the rebels.

"As is common practice for this and all Administrations, I am not going to comment on intelligence matters," said White House press secretary Jay Carney. "I will reiterate what the President said yesterday - no decision has been made about providing arms to the opposition or to any group in Libya. We're not ruling it out or ruling it in. We're assessing and reviewing options for all types of assistance that we could provide to the Libyan people, and have consulted directly with the opposition and our international partners about these matters."

Reuters reported that Mr. Obama signed the order authorizing covert U.S. government support for rebels seeking to overthrow Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The White House has said that while U.S. policy is to seek Gaddafi's ouster, he is not a target in its military mission in Libya.

The wire service claimed Mr. Obama signed the so-called presidential "finding" within the last three weeks, citing four anonymous U.S. government sources. Such a directive can authorize the Central Intelligence Agency to undertake covert operations. ABC News and National Journal later also reported that Mr. Obama signed the finding. 

"The finding does not direct covert operatives to provide arms to the rebels immediately, although it does prepare for such a contingency and other contingencies should the president decide to go down that road in the future," according to the ABC report.

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