WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The United States is moving to provide Libyan rebels with $25 million in medical supplies, radios and other aid that would not include weapons, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday.
The U.S. move comes as opposition forces seeking to remove Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi are engaged in fierce fighting with pro-government troops.
U.S. officials are concerned about the humanitarian situation in the rebel stronghold of Misrata where hundreds of people are believed to have been killed and there are shortages of food and medical supplies.
“We are moving to authorize up to $25 million in non-lethal commodities and services to support the Transitional National Council and our efforts to protect civilians and the civilian populated areas that are under the threat of attack,” Clinton told a news conference.
The aid would be items the U.S. government already has in stock such as medical supplies, uniforms, boots, tents, radios and halal meals.
“There are no new purchases. This is not a blank check,” Clinton said.
President Barack Obama still must sign off on the recommendation, a State Department spokesman said.
The U.S. pledge came after France and Britain said they would send military advisers to help the rebels improve their organization and communications.
Obama remains opposed to sending U.S. ground troops to Libya but supports the French and British move to dispatch military advisers, the White House said.
Clinton described the Libyan rebels as mostly business people, students, lawyers, doctors and professors who have been emboldened by uprisings against authoritarian governments elsewhere in North Africa and the Middle East.
“This opposition which has held its own against a brutal assault by the Gaddafi forces was not an organized militia,” Clinton said. “It was a spontaneous response within the context of the broader Arab Spring.”
Editing by John O'Callaghan