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Top Obama aides to meet on Libya; no quick decisions expected

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, CIA Director Leon Panetta and Adm. Mike Mullen are set to attend the meeting. But immediate decisions on the U.S. role or the possibility of a no-fly zone are not expected.

March 09, 2011|By Michael Muskal | Los Angeles Times

A meeting Wednesday of key Obama administration aides is not expected to lead to a quick decision on whether the United States should increase its role in dealing with the civil war being waged against the government of Libya's Moammar Kadafi, the White House said.

In his briefing with reporters, White House press secretary Jay Carney defended the extent of  the Obama administration’s response to the turmoil in Libya but said he did not expect an immediate decision on whether to expand the U.S. role by adding a no-fly zone, for example.

Wednesday's meeting was to include Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, CIA Director Leon Panetta and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Obama was not scheduled to attend, Carney said.

“We’re reviewing a variety of options,” Carney told reporters. In response to a later question, Carney said, “We will support in a coordinated way the actions of our international partners.”

Democrats, such as Sen. John Kerry of Mass. and Republicans, including Sen. John McCain of Arizona – both former presidential candidates -- have called for a no-fly zone to protect rebels in eastern Libya from government bombing runs. Other officials have called on the United States to help arm the rebels as they have requested.

Wednesday's announced meeting was to include Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, CIA Director Leon Panetta, and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen. Obama was not scheduled to attend, Carney said.

American officials have sent mixed signals on Libya with some suggesting a no-fly zone, but some have raised questions about how it would work. The United States is  winding down two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and those commitments are political factors in any additional involvement in the Islamic world.

Carney defended the administration’s handling of the Libya crisis, arguing that the United States has frozen $30 billion in Libyan assets, has supplied humanitarian support and has redeployed some warships in the region.

Obama has personally said that Kadafi has lost the mandate of support from his people and should step down. That statement  “demonstrates the moral outrage we feel at the actions taken by the Libyan regime against its people,” Carney said, calling the bombing “despicable behavior.”

NATO and the United Nations are debating what additional actions can be taken against Kadafi. Those fighting Kadafi have also asked for the no-fly zone, a request backed by Europeans, but opposed in the United Nations by Russia and China.

michael.muskal@latimes.com
twitter.com/LATimesmuskal

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