Obama: Kadhafi era over, US will be ‘partner’

US President Barack Obama
© AFP Jim Watson


CHILMARK, Massachusetts (AFP) – US President Barack Obama on Monday pressed Libyan strongman Moamer Kadhafi to explicitly give up power and warned joyful rebels against his rule that their struggle was “not over yet.”

“But this much is clear: The Kadhafi regime is coming to an end, and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people,” Obama said, as he took a 10-day break from Washington on the posh resort island of Martha’s Vineyard.

Obama said he had spoken to British Prime Minister David Cameron and that US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had held other high-level talks as the West planned for the post-Kadhafi era six months after the uprising began.

The US president, who has faced fire from lawmakers for his handling of the conflict, promised Libya’s people that Washington will be “a friend and a partner” as the strife-torn country grapples with the “huge challenges ahead.”

With fighting still raging in Tripoli despite rebel claims to hold the city, Obama warned that “the situation is still very fluid, there remains a degree of uncertainty, and there are still regime elements who pose a threat.”

“Although it’s clear that Kadhafi’s rule is over, he still has the opportunity to reduce further bloodshed by explicitly relinquishing power to the people of Libya and calling for those forces that continue to fight to lay down their arms for the sake of Libya,” said the US president.

Looking beyond Kadhafi’s iron-fisted 42-year rule, Obama called for “an inclusive transition that leads to a democratic Libya” and warned the rebels rebels against targeting regime loyalists.

“True justice will not come from reprisals and violence; it will come from reconciliation and a Libya that allows its citizens to determine their own destiny,” Obama said.

“In that effort, the United States will be a friend and a partner,” he said, vowing to meet the country’s humanitarian needs with “critical supplies” and ultimately support the emerging government with Kadhafi’s frozen assets.

But a US Treasury official said those assets, totaling roughly $37 billion dollars, were still locked up for now and that US sanctions on the Kadhafi regime remained in place.

And with a possible post-Kadhafi international peacekeeping mission on the horizon, the Pentagon ruled out the deployment of any US ground troops as part of a UN or NATO ground force.

“If there’s going to be some type of transitional mission, that remains to be seen, whether it comes out of the UN or NATO,” said a spokesman, Colonel Dave Lapan. “But we still do not plan any US forces going on the ground in Libya.”

Lapan also said that Kadhafi, who kept out of sight as rebels assailed Tripoli, was thought to still be in Libya, though his exact whereabouts remained unclear.

At the US State Department, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said diplomats from the “Contact Group” comprising mostly countries that took part in NATO’s air campaign in support of the rebels would meet in Istanbul Thursday.

Philip Gordon, the assistant US secretary of state for European affairs, will represent the United States at the talks to “coordinate next steps,” she said.

Obama said he had directed the US envoy to the United Nations, Susan Rice, to ask UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to use September’s general assembly “to support this important transition.”

Earlier, Obama discussed the situation in Libya on a conference call with top national security aides, including National Security Adviser Tom Donilon, Clinton, CIA chief Leon Panetta, Rice, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and senior military commanders, the White House said.

© AFPPublished at Activist Post with license

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