U.S. Continues Pressure on Gadhafi, Obama Says

WASHINGTON, March 11, 2011 — The Unit­ed States will con­tin­ue to apply pres­sure on Libyan leader Moam­mar Gad­hafi and has not tak­en any options off the table, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma said here today.
Dur­ing a news con­fer­ence in the Eisen­how­er Exec­u­tive Office Build­ing, the pres­i­dent laid out the administration’s pol­i­cy on Libya and the removal of Gad­hafi.

“The bot­tom line is that I have not tak­en any options off the table at this point,” Oba­ma said. “It is impor­tant to under­stand that we have moved about as swift­ly as an inter­na­tion­al coali­tion has ever moved to impose sanc­tions on Gad­hafi. I am absolute­ly clear that it is in the inter­ests of the Unit­ed States and, more impor­tant­ly, the Libyan peo­ple, for Mr. Gad­hafi to leave. I have not fore­closed these options.”

Mil­i­tary options are under con­sid­er­a­tion, the pres­i­dent said.

“I do take very seri­ous­ly mak­ing sure that any deci­sions I make that involve U.S. mil­i­tary pow­er are well thought through,” Oba­ma said. Any deci­sion on the use of the Amer­i­can mil­i­tary will only hap­pen after close con­sul­ta­tions with Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates, Chair­man of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Navy Adm. Mike Mullen and oth­er rel­e­vant lead­ers, he said.

Oba­ma said the first U.S. pri­or­i­ty after riot­ing broke out in east­ern Libya was to evac­u­ate Amer­i­can cit­i­zens. After that, U.S. offi­cials froze Gadhafi’s assets and imposed sanc­tions on his regime. The Unit­ed States also moved via the Unit­ed Nations to mobi­lize the inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty, Oba­ma said.

“Across the board, we are slow­ly tight­en­ing the noose on Gad­hafi,” the pres­i­dent said. “He is more iso­lat­ed inter­na­tion­al­ly, both through sanc­tions as well as an arms embar­go.”

The Unit­ed States has pro­vid­ed human­i­tar­i­an aid to Libyans and refugees from that nation, and is work­ing with NATO allies on the next steps, the pres­i­dent said. The alliance already has in place 24-hour sur­veil­lance to mon­i­tor the sit­u­a­tion on the ground and react rapid­ly if con­di­tions dete­ri­o­rate. NATO also is look­ing to tight­en the arms embar­go and to pro­vide fur­ther human­i­tar­i­an aid, Oba­ma said.

“There [are] also poten­tial mil­i­tary options, includ­ing a no-fly zone,” he added. “NATO will be meet­ing [March 15] to con­sid­er a no-fly zone, and we’ve been in dis­cus­sions with Arab and African coun­tries to gauge their sup­port for such an action.”

Sec­re­tary of State Hillary Rod­ham Clin­ton will meet with the Libyan oppo­si­tion in the next sev­er­al days, and the Unit­ed States will send an ambas­sador to the rebels “whose spe­cif­ic job is to inter­act with the oppo­si­tion and to find ways to fur­ther help them and we will be in close con­sul­ta­tion,” Oba­ma said.

The pres­i­dent was care­ful about the notion of com­mit­ting U.S. mil­i­tary per­son­nel.

“Any time I send Unit­ed States armed forces into a poten­tial­ly hos­tile sit­u­a­tion, there are risks involved, and there are con­se­quences,” he said. “And it is my job as pres­i­dent that we have con­sid­ered all these risks. It’s also impor­tant from a polit­i­cal per­spec­tive to, as much as pos­si­ble, main­tain the strong inter­na­tion­al coali­tion we have right now.”

The inter­na­tion­al com­mu­ni­ty needs to find ways to increase the pres­sure on Gad­hafi and fur­ther iso­late him, the pres­i­dent said.

“Gad­hafi has a stash of weapons,” Oba­ma not­ed. “He not only has some troops who remain loy­al to him, but there have been reports he has been hir­ing mer­ce­nar­ies, and even with the finan­cial freeze we have imposed, he still has some assets.”

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

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