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France confirmed earlier this week it has been dropping rifles into the mountains southwest of Tripoli to get them into the hands of Libyan rebels. A military spokesman said France had provided "light arms such as assault rifles" for civilian communities to "protect themselves against Col. Gadhafi." It became apparent early in the uprising against Moammar Gadhafi that, without a great deal of training, the rebel forces could not make much use of modern weaponry — artillery, rocketry and the like. So France has opted to pepper the region with simpler weapons, hoping they’ll help tip the balance against Gadhafi, who is holding up well against NATO air raids. Perhaps the French rifles will help. But they will for certain increase the pressure to put trained combat soldiers on the ground in Libya, which is a job none of the NATO nations wants. Gadhafi will enjoy watching his enemies fall out over who should shed blood and who should cheer from the sidelines. Already, the French rifle drop is out of favour with the United Kingdom and Italy, both of whom point to a United Nations arms embargo on Libya. Gadhafi will be enjoying that debate, too. And for all we know, it may be his loyalists, and not the rebels, who made it first to the drop zones and are now shouldering the French rifles.

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