Amidst reports that Libyan rebels are retreating in the face of the superior firepower of Moammar Gaddafi’s armies, the head of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) has ruled out the possibility of providing weapons to the beleaguered rebel groups.

We are there to protect the Libyan people, not to arm people, NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen told reporters in Stockholm.

As far as NATO is concerned, we will fully implement the United Nations Security Council resolution which requests the enforcement of an arms embargo, he said.

Meanwhile, NATO has taken command of all military operations in Libya.

Rasmussen conceded that he is aware of the ongoing discussion in a number of countries about arming the rebels, but as far as NATO is concerned...we will focus on the enforcement of the arms embargo, which he asserted applies across the board to all sides in this conflict.

As Libyan rebel forces are being pushed steadily eastward by Gaddafi’s vastly stronger and better-trained troops, the US, UK and France are scrambling for ways to give the Libyan opposition more assistance. It is becoming clear that air strikes on Gaddafi targets have not been adequate to prevent his troops from attacking rebel bases.

However, the US President Barack Obama has apparently signed a secret order that could help move weapons to rebels. The Central Intelligence Agency has reportedly put covert operatives on the ground in parts of Libya.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said that 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.

There is also some opposition in the US to giving arms to Libyan rebels, especially in light of reports that these factions contain elements of Al Qaeda among their ranks.

We need to understand more about the opposition before I would support passing out guns and advanced weapons to them, said Rep. Mike Rogers of Michigan, chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. It's safe to say what the rebels stand against, but we are a long way from an understanding of what they stand for. We need to be very careful before rushing into a decision that could come back to haunt us.