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Obama credits NATO operation in crumbling of Kadafi regime

August 22, 2011|By Maeve Reston
(Kevin Lamarque/Reuters )

Reporting from Vineyard Haven, Mass.–  Interrupting his vacation to address the upheaval in Libya, President Obama told the nation Monday afternoon that the regime of Moammar Kadafi was coming to an end and that the nation was “in the hands of its people.”


FOR THE RECORD: An earlier version of the headline on this article incorrectly said that Moammar Kadafi's regime has collapsed. Kadafi has not given up power.

“For over four decades the Libyan people have lived under the rule of a tyrant who denied them their most basic human rights,” Obama said in a seven-minute statement from Blue Heron Farm in Chilmark. “Now the celebrations that we’ve seen in the streets of Libya shows that the pursuit of human dignity is far stronger than any dictator.”

Obama, who has been sharply criticized by some Republicans and Democrats for committing U.S. forces to the operations in Libya without first seeking the consent of Congress, credited the multi-lateral operation led by NATO forces for contributing to the unraveling of Kadafi’s 42-year reign. 

The international effort was necessary, the president said, to “save lives and stop Kadafi’s forces in their tracks.” He said the Libyan leader had embarked on a “campaign of violence against the Libyan people” that led to the murder of civilians in the streets. 

With Kadafi’s whereabouts unknown, the president cautioned that the situation in Libya is still fluid and that fierce fighting continued in some areas as Kadafi’s regime was collapsing. He  called again on Kadafi to “explicitly” relinquish power to the Libyan people and to direct his forces to “lay down their arms for the sake of Libya.”

Obama also urged the Transitional National Council to ensure a “peaceful, inclusive and just” transition to democracy. U.S. forces, he said, will continue to aid in the international effort. But he offered few details about what that role would entail.

“We will join with allies and partners to continue the work of safeguarding the people of Libya,” Obama said, adding that the U.S. will be working closely with NATO and other nations to determine the next steps in the humanitarian effort in Libya.

The president took no questions in his statement at Fisher House, a property on Blue Heron Farm where he is spending his 10-day vacation with his family. A White House spokesman said the president was being briefed regularly on the developments by John Brennan, his top counterterrorism adviser who is also on the island. Earlier on Monday, Obama convened a conference call with his national security advisers to discuss the role of the U.S. in the coming weeks.           

maeve.reston@latimes.com

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