WASHINGTON - U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said Tuesday that the Obama administration has not ruled out arming the rebels fighting to oust Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, or finding a diplomatic way to oust the embattled leader from power.
"We have not made that decision, but we've not certainly ruled that out" arming the rebels, she said in an interview on ABC's "Good Morning America" program.
Earlier Tuesday Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said several nations are behind a proposal to swiftly end the conflict, setting out plans for a cease-fire, a safe haven exile for Gadhafi and a framework for talks on Libya's future between tribal leaders and opposition figures.
"Of course where he goes, if he goes, is up to him and the people of Libya to determine," Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague said. "(We are) "not going to choose Col. Gadhafi's retirement home."
Frattini suggested earlier that several African counties could offer Gadhafi a safe haven but African Union chairman Jean Ping decided not to attend.
U.N. special envoy Abdelilah al-Khatib, a former Jordanian foreign minister, would return to Libya to hold talks with Gadhafi's regime and opposition figures. The U.S. was also sending diplomat Chris Stevens to the rebel-held Libyan city of Benghazi to meet with rebel leaders.
Turkey, which has offered to mediate a permanent cease-fire, said the talks would gauge international support for scenarios under which Gadhafi could retreat into exile.
Rice told ABC there was no indication that Gaddafi is prepared to leave power without continued pressure from the international community. Referring to reports that members of Gaddafi's inner circle are reaching out to the West, she said: "We will be more persuaded by actions rather than prospects or feelers."
Rice also said there are plenty of "non-military means at our disposal" to oust Libya's Moammar Gadhafi.
Reinforcing President Barack Obama's justification for American intervention in the strife-torn North African nation, Rice, on CBS's "The Early Show," said the principal goal is to protect civilians and establish a no-fly zone. She says while the administration believes Gadhafi must go, it doesn't envision a regime-change strategy of the kind the Bush administration used to dump Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
“The expectation, both of the Libyan people and the international community is that there needs to be justice for the crimes that are committed,” she said. “But obviously should there be an opportunity for some sort of arrangement for Gadhafi to step aside that is something the Libyan people will have to judge and we will take it as it comes.”
Rice also said the rebel leadership would have to agree to any arrangement with Gadhafi.
Appearing on the same show, Sen. John McCain said he doesn't believe it's possible "in the short term" to get rid of Gadhafi through non-military means such as economic and diplomatic pressure. McCain says "Gadhafi in power is unacceptable. We should use any means to bring him down.
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