Obama: Object of Libya campaign to cause Gaddafi to quit

NATO chief says he can not guess how long the alliance's military mission will last in Libya, but there can be no solely military solution.

By REUTERS
March 30, 2011 01:15
3 minute read.
US President Barack Obama

US President Barack Obama 311 (R). (photo credit: REUTERS/Jim Young)

 
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US President Barack Obama said on Tuesday the objective of a US and allied campaign is to apply steady pressure on Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi so that he will "ultimately step down" from power.

In an NBC News interview, Obama said military pressure and international sanctions have "greatly weakened" Gaddafi. "He does not have control over most of Libya at this point," Obama said.

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Obama said the United States has not ruled out providing military hardware to Libyan rebels who are pressuring Gaddafi -- "I'm not ruling it in, I'm not ruling it out."

And he said he has already agreed to provide nonlethal aid such as communications equipment, medical supplies and potentially transportation aid to the Libyan opposition.

"We are going to be looking at all options to provide support to the Libyan people so that we can transition towards a more peaceful and more stable Libya," Obama said.

Obama said his Libyan policy should not necessarily be viewed as an "Obama Doctrine," saying each country in the region is different.

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While force was used in Libya, he said, this "does not mean that somehow we are going to go around trying to use military force to impose or apply certain forms of government."

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen echoed this sentiment, saying on Tuesday he would not guess how long the alliance's military mission would last in Libya, but there could be no solely military solution.

Speaking after an international coalition pledged to continue military action against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and agreed to set up a contact group to coordinate political efforts, Rasmussen urged all parties to seek a political solution as soon as possible.

"I am not going to guess," he told Reuters when asked how long the NATO mission could last and whether it could become a financial burden for alliance states on top of their long commitment in Afghanistan.

"But I do hope that we'll see a political solution to the problems in Libya as soon as possible. Clearly there's no military solution, solely, to the problems in Libya," he said.

NATO agreed on Sunday to take over all operations in Libya from a coalition led by the United States, France and Britain, putting the 28-nation alliance in charge of air strikes that have targeted Muammar Gaddafi's military infrastructure, as well as a UN-mandated no-fly zone and an arms embargo.

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NATO officials say alliance planning foresees a 90-day operation, but the timetable would depend on the United Nations.

"We are there to protect civilians against attack, but in order to find a long-term sustainable solution to the conflict in Libya, we need a political process and I would ask all parties involved to seek such political solutions sooner rather than later," Rasmussen said.

NATO forces will reach initial capacity to take over military operations in Libya on Wednesday and should be fully operational on Thursday, NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu said.

On Tuesday, the coalition of countries conducting air strikes against Gaddafi's forces launched 22 Tomahawk missiles in the last 24 hours, the Pentagon said.

Coalition countries also flew 115 strike sorties, the Pentagon said in a new tally of military activities over the last 24 hours.

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