Broad Coalition Seeks to Help Libyans, Obama Says

WASHINGTON, March 19, 2011 — Express­ing con­fi­dence in the U.S. ser­vice mem­bers tak­ing part, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma said the mil­i­tary action that began today in Libya is an inter­na­tion­al effort designed to pro­tect a threat­ened peo­ple.
An inter­na­tion­al coali­tion launched strikes today on Libyan air defens­es to begin enforc­ing Unit­ed Nations Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 1973 by paving the way for enforce­ment of a no-fly zone and pre­vent­ing the regime of Moam­mar Gad­hafi from inflict­ing fur­ther harm on the Libyan peo­ple amid calls for polit­i­cal reform.

“In this effort, the Unit­ed States is act­ing with a broad coali­tion that is com­mit­ted to enforc­ing Unit­ed Nations Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 1973, which calls for the pro­tec­tion of the Libyan peo­ple,” Oba­ma said today in Brazil, his first stop in a three-nation trip through South Amer­i­ca. “That coali­tion met in Paris today to send a uni­fied mes­sage, and it brings togeth­er many of our Euro­pean and Arab part­ners.”

Oba­ma not­ed that the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty yes­ter­day gave Gad­hafi the chance to declare a cease-fire that stopped the vio­lence against civil­ians and the advances of his forces. “But despite the hol­low words of his gov­ern­ment,” the pres­i­dent added, “he has ignored that oppor­tu­ni­ty. His attacks on his own peo­ple have con­tin­ued. His forces have been on the move. And the dan­ger faced by the peo­ple of Libya has grown.”

Though he described the mil­i­tary action as “lim­it­ed” and repeat­ed his asser­tion that no U.S. ground forces would be sent to Libya, he said he rec­og­nizes the risks and did­n’t take the deci­sion light­ly. “But we can­not stand idly by when a tyrant tells his peo­ple that there will be no mer­cy, and his forces step up their assaults on cities like Beng­hazi and Mis­ura­ta, where inno­cent men and women face bru­tal­i­ty and death at the hands of their own gov­ern­ment,” he said.

As a part of the coali­tion effort, Oba­ma said, the Unit­ed States will con­tribute unique capa­bil­i­ties at the front end of the mis­sion to pro­tect Libyan civil­ians and enable the enforce­ment of a no-fly zone that will be led by inter­na­tion­al part­ners.

“As com­man­der in chief, I have great con­fi­dence in the men and women of our mil­i­tary who will car­ry out this mis­sion. They car­ry with them the respect of a grate­ful nation,” the pres­i­dent said. “I’m also proud that we are act­ing as part of a coali­tion that includes close allies and part­ners who are pre­pared to meet their respon­si­bil­i­ty to pro­tect the peo­ple of Libya and uphold the man­date of the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty.”

Oba­ma said he autho­rized the action after con­sult­ing with his nation­al secu­ri­ty team, and con­gres­sion­al lead­ers from both par­ties, and he pledged to keep the Amer­i­can peo­ple ful­ly informed.

“But make no mis­take,” he added. “Today we are part of a broad coali­tion. We are answer­ing the calls of a threat­ened peo­ple. And we are act­ing in the inter­ests of the Unit­ed States and the world.”

Ear­li­er, Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton, met in Paris with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of var­i­ous nations who gath­ered to dis­cuss the sit­u­a­tion in Libya.

“This is a flu­id and fast-mov­ing sit­u­a­tion, which may be the under­state­ment of the time,” she said. “And I know that there are lots of ques­tions that peo­ple have about what’s next and what will we be doing. So let me just under­score the key point: This is a broad inter­na­tion­al effort; the world will not sit idly by while more inno­cent civil­ians are killed.

“The Unit­ed States will sup­port our allies and part­ners as they move to enforce Res­o­lu­tion 1973,” Clin­ton con­tin­ued. “We are stand­ing with the peo­ple of Libya, and we will not waver in our efforts to pro­tect them.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)

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