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Obama speaks to congressional leaders about Libya, plans speech to nation

President Obama talks about the military mission in Libya by phone with a group of senior lawmakers, the White House says, and will address the American public 'in the very near future.'

March 25, 2011|By Michael A. Memoli, Washington Bureau

Reporting from Washington — President Obama has reached out to congressional leaders to discuss the U.S. military operation in Libya, and will address the American people about the conflict "in the very near future," the White House said Friday.

Without offering specifics as to the time or nature of any planned remarks, Press Secretary Jay Carney promised that the president would offer "a very clear explanation" for his decision to involve U.S. forces in the Libyan campaign.

"I think that the American people do expect and will get from this president what they have gotten in the past, which is a very clear explanation of the decisions he makes when he makes the significant decision to engage in military action," Carney said at his afternoon briefing.

When Obama launched Operation Odyssey Dawn, it was from Brazil at the start of a five-day trip to Latin America. Though he spoke broadly of U.S. goals before his departure and took questions on the operation during his trip, he has yet to deliver the kind of address presidents have typically made when launching military strikes.

Tuesday, the president is set to visit New York for the dedication of a new United States mission to the United Nations. Carney declined to say if that would be the venue for his address.

On Friday afternoon, Obama was speaking by phone with a group of senior lawmakers. The president returned to Washington on Wednesday to the cries from lawmakers in both parties that the administration had failed to make a clear case for action.

House Speaker John Boehner, who was to participate in Friday's conference call, said that Obama "left some fundamental questions about our engagement unanswered."

Carney defended the president's decision to take action when he did.

"Had he waited for Congress to come back, had he … taken more time to debate and consult on this issue, I think there's very little doubt that Benghazi would have fallen and that many people would have died," he said.

Asked at the briefing about a Gallup poll showing only lukewarm support for the operation, Carney said it was understandable given that Americans had "a lot on their mind and a lot on their plate."

"It's a lot for anybody to process," he said. "We're confident that the president's decision is the right one."

michael.memoli@latimes.com

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