WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama hailed Libya's election on Saturday as a milestone in its post-Gaddafi democratic transition and pledged that the United States would act as a partner even as he cautioned there would still be difficult challenges ahead.
"After more than 40 years in which Libya was in the grip of a dictator, today's historic election underscores that the future of Libya is in the hands of the Libyan people," Obama said in a statement after Libyans went to the polls in what was widely seen as turning the page on Muammar Gaddafi's autocratic legacy.
Despite the fractious climate in the North African oil-producing state since Gaddafi's ouster last year, Obama made clear that he saw the country's latest political chapter as vindication of his decision to take part in a NATO air assault that helped rebel forces defeat Gaddafi's loyalists.
Obama, running for re-election this November, opted for a cautious strategy that steered clear of a dominant role for the U.S. military and faced criticism from Republican opponents at home for what was described as "leading from behind."
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