CNN Senior State Department Producer
Washington (CNN) - The United States is weighing a possible military role to help the Libyan revolt against leader Moammar Gadhafi, but top U.S. officials warn that the issue is controversial.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told a Senate panel Wednesday that "there may well be a role for military assets to get equipment and supplies into areas that have a need for them" and in areas where the United States is welcome.
But she noted the Arab League statement issued Wednesday that rejected "any foreign interference within Libya on behalf of the opposition, even though they have called for Gadhafi to leave."
"The tough issues about how and whether there would be any intervention to assist those who are opposing Libya is very controversial within Libya and within the Arab community," Clinton told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. "So we are working closely with our partners and allies to try to see what we can do and we are engaged in very active consideration of all the different options that are available."
Two senior officials in the Arab League said the group's members have agreed not to accept any foreign intervention in Libya; they also agreed that they will consult with other Arab League members in order to protect Libyans' security.
But the league cannot ignore the suffering of civilians and would consider the imposition of a no-fly zone in coordination with the African Union if fighting were to continue, the officials said.
Senator John Kerry, D-Massachusetts, called for the United States to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. While he noted that the Libyan people weren't asking for foreign troops, he said they "do need the tools to prevent the slaughter of innocents on Libyan streets."
Defense Secretary Robert Gates, speaking to a House committee, said creating a no-fly zone would have to begin with an attack on Libya.
"If it's ordered, we can do it, but ... there's a lot of, frankly, loose talk about some of these military options, and let's just call a spade a spade. A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses. That's the way you do a no-fly zone, and then you can fly planes around the country and not worry about our guys being shot down," he told a House Appropriations hearing. "But that's the way it starts."
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