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Obama: U.S., allies ready to launch military action in Libya

President Obama announces, in a warning to Moammar Kadafi, that the U.N. will act if the Libyan leader doesn't immediately stop all attacks on rebels and pull back troops from Benghazi and three other cities.

March 18, 2011|By Christi Parsons, Washington Bureau
  • A Libyan rebel grimaces on the front line near Sultan, south of Benghazi.
A Libyan rebel grimaces on the front line near Sultan, south of Benghazi. (Anja Niedringhaus / Associated…)

Reporting from Washington — President Obama said Friday the U.S. and its allies were ready to launch a military action against Libyan leader Moammar Kadafi if he didn't immediately stop all attacks on civilians in his country and pull back his troops from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi and three other cities.

In a message of warning aimed directly at the Libyan leader, Obama said the United Nations was ready to act if Kadafi didn't restore electricity and gas to those cities and clear the way for humanitarian assistance.

"These terms are not subject to negotiations," Obama said, promising that, if necessary, the U.N. Security Council resolution to protect the Libyan people would be "enforced through military action."

Photos: A journey from Libya back to Egypt

But Obama also spelled out that the U.S. commitment in Libya would be "focused" and done in cooperation with coalition partners and that he was not contemplating sending American soldiers into Libya.

"The U.S. is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya," Obama told reporters in the East Room of the White House. "We are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal, specifically the protection of civilians in Libya."

The remarks came as the U.S. and its U.N. allies turned up the pressure on Kadafi to capitulate and leave power. Shortly before the president spoke, Reuters wire service reported that the U.S. was preparing to deploy additional amphibious assault ships to the Mediterranean in the next few days.

Despite the morning promise of a cease-fire, administration officials said they had received credible reports that the violence by Kadafi's forces continued on Friday. Kadafi forces were said to be attacking Misurata, the last city in the western half of the country still held by the rebels.

The word of a cease-fire followed the Thursday vote by the security council to authorize a no-fly zone over Libya and use "all necessary measures" to protect civilians. British officials announced in the wake of the vote that they would deploy fighter jets, and France also was making plans to send planes to the region.

Even as Obama drew limits around the U.S. commitment in Libya, he made the case for American involvement.

The international community has "every reason to believe," he said, that Kadafi would commit atrocities against his people and that his unabated reign would destabilize the entire region to the detriment of U.S. allies and partners.

"The Democratic values we stand for would be overrun," he said, and the "words of the international community would be rendered hollow."

On Saturday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will fly to Paris to talk about enforcing the U.N. resolution, including the steps necessary for France and Britain to begin enforcing the no-fly zone.

cparsons@tribune.com

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