U.S. Military Aircraft to Aid Egyptians Leaving Libya

WASHINGTON, March 3, 2011 — Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma announced today he has approved the use of U.S. mil­i­tary air­craft to help Egyp­tians who have fled to the Tunisian bor­der get back home to Egypt.
Speak­ing from the White House, Oba­ma said the Unit­ed States and the world con­tin­ue “to be out­raged by the appalling vio­lence against the Libyan peo­ple.”

Mean­while, Defense Sec­re­tary Robert M. Gates has ordered U.S. Africa Com­mand to take the lead for defense plan­ning regard­ing the sit­u­a­tion in Libya, accord­ing to a Pen­ta­gon state­ment. The DOD will con­tin­ue to work in close coor­di­na­tion with the State Depart­ment and oth­er agen­cies as need­ed.

Since Feb. 17, Libyan cit­i­zens have protest­ed against Col. Moam­mar Gad­hafi, who has ruled Libya since 1969. Gadhafi’s forces have since engaged in increas­ing­ly vio­lent clash­es with pro­test­ers through­out the coun­try, while Libya’s mil­i­tary forces are divid­ed between the two sides. An esti­mat­ed 180,000 peo­ple have fled Libya, many gath­er­ing along the bor­der with Tunisia.

“The Unit­ed States is help­ing to lead an inter­na­tion­al effort to deter fur­ther vio­lence, put in place unprece­dent­ed sanc­tions to hold the Gad­hafi gov­ern­ment account­able, and sup­port the aspi­ra­tions of the Libyan peo­ple,” Oba­ma said.

The Unit­ed States also is respond­ing to the urgent human­i­tar­i­an needs that are devel­op­ing, he said.

“Tens of thou­sands of peo­ple, from many dif­fer­ent coun­tries, are flee­ing Libya,” the pres­i­dent said. “We com­mend the gov­ern­ments of Tunisia and Egypt for their response, even as they go through their own polit­i­cal tran­si­tions.”

The pres­i­dent also has autho­rized the U.S. Agency for Inter­na­tion­al Devel­op­ment to char­ter addi­tion­al civil­ian air­craft to help peo­ple flee­ing Libya return to their homes.

“We’re sup­port­ing the efforts of inter­na­tion­al orga­ni­za­tions to evac­u­ate peo­ple as well,” the pres­i­dent said. “I’ve also direct­ed USAID to send human­i­tar­i­an assis­tance teams to the Libyan bor­der, so that they can work with the Unit­ed Nations, [non-gov­ern­men­tal orga­ni­za­tions] and oth­er inter­na­tion­al part­ners inside Libya to address the urgent needs of the Libyan peo­ple.”

The Unit­ed States will con­tin­ue to send a clear mes­sage that the vio­lence in Libya must stop, and Gad­hafi must go, the pres­i­dent said.

Libya’s ruler “has lost legit­i­ma­cy to lead, and he must leave,” Oba­ma said. “Those who per­pe­trate vio­lence against the Libyan peo­ple will be held account­able. And the aspi­ra­tions of the Libyan peo­ple for free­dom, democ­ra­cy and dig­ni­ty must be met.”

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

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