President Barack Obama said Moammar Gadhafi must stop violence and repression against the Libyan people or face a military response by an international coalition.
“All attacks against civilians must stop” and Gadhafi must pull back his troops from cities where they have attacked anti-government forces, Obama said in his first remarks since the United Nations vote yesterday that cleared the way for the United States and its allies to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians.
“These terms are not negotiable,” he said. “The resolution that passed lays out very clear conditions that must be met.”
Obama said the United States and its allies won’t use force beyond the goal of protecting civilians and the United States won’t commit ground forces in Libya. European and Arab nations will take key roles in enforcing a no-fly zone, he said.
The president spoke after conferring at the White House with Democratic and Republican congressional leaders and key members of House and Senate committees dealing with foreign affairs, defense and intelligence.
The U.N. Security Council authorized the use of air attacks and a no-fly zone over Libya to protect civilians from forces loyal to Qaddafi trying to end a monthlong uprising. The resolution, which excludes “a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory,” was approved 10-0 with five abstentions.
“Ample warning was given that Gadhafi needed to stop his campaign of repression or be held accountable,” Obama said. “Left unchecked, we have every reason to believe that Gadhafi would commit atrocities against his people.”
Obama spoke Thursday night with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy to coordinate the next steps in Libya.
Following the U.N. action, Gadhafi's regime declared an immediate cease-fire and said it was willing to talk to rebels. Still, forces loyal to Gadhafi shelled the city of Misrata even after the cease-fire announcement, and 25 people were killed there Friday, Qatar-based Al Jazeera reported, citing medical staff.
Libya holds the largest proven oil reserves in Africa. Crude oil for April delivery dropped 81 cents, or 0.8 percent, to $100.61 a barrel at 12:57 p.m. on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Futures were up as much as 2.2 percent to $103.66 before the Libyan announcement. Prices are down 0.5 percent this week.
Leaders across the Middle East are struggling to suppress a renewed surge in unrest, as Arab nations backed the no-fly zone and countries including Qatar indicated they will participate in the enforcement of the UN resolution.
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