Obama, NATO Leader Urge End to Gadhafi Regime

WASHINGTON, Aug. 22, 2011 — NATO Sec­re­tary Gen­er­al Anders Fogh Ras­mussen today joined Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma in declar­ing that Moam­mar Gadhafi’s regime is crum­bling and that the Libyan leader should step down to spare his peo­ple fur­ther blood­shed and suf­fer­ing.

“The soon­er Gad­hafi real­izes that he can­not win the bat­tle against his own peo­ple, the bet­ter,” Ras­mussen said in a tele­vised state­ment.

Libyan rebels have assumed con­trol of much of the cap­i­tal city of Tripoli, and Oba­ma released a state­ment yes­ter­day say­ing that Libya had reached a tip­ping point and its cap­i­tal was “slip­ping from the grasp of a tyrant.”

“The peo­ple of Libya are show­ing that the uni­ver­sal pur­suit of dig­ni­ty and free­dom is far stronger than the iron fist of a dic­ta­tor,” Oba­ma said. Gad­hafi must acknowl­edge that he no longer con­trols Libya and relin­quish pow­er once and for all, the pres­i­dent added.

The Libyan peo­ple have suf­fered under Gadhafi’s rule for more than four decades, Ras­mussen said in his state­ment today, but now have a chance for a new begin­ning.

“Now is the time for all threats against civil­ians to stop, as the Unit­ed Nations Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil demand­ed,” he said. “Now is the time to cre­ate a new Libya – a state based on free­dom, not fear; democ­ra­cy, not dic­ta­tor­ship; the will of the many, not the whims of a few.”

That tran­si­tion must come peace­ful­ly, must come now, and must be led and defined by the Libyan peo­ple, he added.

Libya’s civ­il war devel­oped after the Gad­hafi regime’s forces killed hun­dreds of pro­test­ers in Feb­ru­ary. Forces oppos­ing the gov­ern­ment announced Feb. 27 in Beng­hazi they had formed the Tran­si­tion­al Nation­al Coun­cil with the goal of over­throw­ing Gadhafi’s gov­ern­ment and hold­ing demo­c­ra­t­ic elec­tions.

March 19, a Unit­ed States-led coali­tion began air oper­a­tions to pre­vent fur­ther attacks by regime forces on the Libyan peo­ple. At the end of March, NATO took over respon­si­bil­i­ty and the Unit­ed States assumed a sup­port­ing role.

The Unit­ed States has rec­og­nized the Tran­si­tion­al Nation­al Coun­cil as the legit­i­mate gov­ern­ing author­i­ty in Libya, Oba­ma said in his state­ment. The coun­cil now has the respon­si­bil­i­ty to set a new course for Libya by respect­ing the rights of the peo­ple, avoid­ing civil­ian casu­al­ties, pro­tect­ing the insti­tu­tions of the Libyan state and pur­su­ing a tran­si­tion to democ­ra­cy, he added.

“A sea­son of con­flict must lead to one of peace,” the pres­i­dent said.

Oba­ma pledged that the Unit­ed States will con­tin­ue to work with inter­na­tion­al allies and part­ners to pro­tect the Libyan peo­ple and sup­port a peace­ful tran­si­tion to democ­ra­cy, and Ras­mussen said NATO also is ready to work with the Libyan peo­ple and with the Tran­si­tion­al Nation­al Coun­cil.

“Gadhafi’s remain­ing allies and forces also have a great respon­si­bil­i­ty,” the sec­re­tary gen­er­al said. “It is time to end their careers of vio­lence. The world is watch­ing them. This is their oppor­tu­ni­ty to side with the Libyan peo­ple and choose the right side of his­to­ry.”

NATO will mon­i­tor mil­i­tary units and key facil­i­ties, Ras­mussen said, and con­tin­ue to pro­tect the peo­ple of Libya.

“It is for the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty to assist them, with the Unit­ed Nations … play­ing a lead­ing role,” he said. “NATO wants the Libyan peo­ple to be able to decide their future in free­dom and in peace. Today, they can start build­ing that future.”

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