US Moves Military Assets Near Libya, Calls Qaddafi Delusional

Tuesday, 01 March 2011 07:07 AM

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Pentagon is repositioning military units near Libya for possible use in a humanitarian relief effort, while the U.S. Treasury announced the freeze of $30 billion in assets of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, his family or the Libyan government.

In the strongest rhetoric so far against Qaddafi from the Obama administration, Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, called the Libyan leader “delusional.” Qaddafi insisted in a television interview yesterday that “my people love me” and pledged to stay in power, while suggesting the U.S. wants to occupy Libya.

“When he can laugh in talking to American and international journalists while he is slaughtering his own people, it only underscores how unfit he is to lead and how disconnected he is from reality,” Rice told reporters at the White House yesterday. Qaddafi’s attitude to the bloody crackdown on his people highlights the necessity of U.S., European and United Nations sanctions that have been imposed on Libya in recent days, she said.

Clinton said U.S. naval forces in the Mediterranean and U.S. military assets from NATO and host country bases might be used to support a “humanitarian intervention” and “rescue missions” aimed at assisting refugees fleeing political violence in Libya and elsewhere in North Africa.

Nothing ‘Off the Table’

“There is not any pending military action involving U.S. naval vessels,” Clinton told reporters in Geneva, where she joined European foreign ministers and other allies at a meeting of the United Nations Human Rights Council. Still, she stressed that “nothing is off the table so long as the Libyan government continues to threaten and kill Libyan citizens.”

Commander Wendy L. Snyder, a Pentagon spokeswoman, described the repositioning of forces near Libya as part of the Defense Department’s “contingency planning to provide the President flexibility on a full range of options regarding Libya.”

Clinton said the U.S. was dispatching emergency relief teams to Libya’s borders to assist refugees fleeing the government’s armed crackdown on a popular uprising.

The U.S. Agency for International Development has allocated $10 million in emergency aid and two expert relief teams to support relief organizations aiding Libyans, guest workers and migrants caught up in the violence and dislocation, Clinton said.

Asset Freeze

Meanwhile, $30 billion in cash and securities belonging to Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, his family or the Libyan government have been frozen since President Barack Obama ordered sanctions on Feb. 25, in what a Treasury official called the largest such action in history.

“This is the largest blocking under any sanctions program ever,” said David Cohen, acting Treasury undersecretary for terrorism and financial intelligence, without giving details of the banks involved in the freeze. The funds blocked by the U.S. don’t include any Libyan assets frozen by European governments, he said.

U.S. officials, meanwhile, have been in touch with Libyan opposition figures and members of civil society, Rice told reporters at the White House, though it’s “unclear at this point who will emerge” as a viable alternative representing those seeking a democratic government. In that context, she said, it’s “premature” to talk about “any kind of military assistance” to anti-Qaddafi rebels.

‘Responsible Government’

The U.S. wants to see a “responsible government emerge that respects the will of the Libyan people,” Rice said, adding that “it would be wrong of us to sit here with a road map for a political transformation in Libya.”

State Department spokesman Philip J. Crowley said U.S. Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz, who is in Washington, has been reaching out since the weekend to a range of opposition figures to understand “what’s happening on the ground and to identify as we go forward what needs and concerns they might have.”

Many who have put themselves forward as possible leaders of a transitional leadership or opposition movement, such as former Justice Minister Moustafa Abdel Jalil, were until recently loyalists to Qaddafi. Crowley acknowledged the definition of “what constitutes a legitimate government is complex.”

“We are just at the beginning of assessing” the opposition and its goals, he told reporters at the State Department.

‘Wide Range of Options’

Referring to possible military action in Libya, Rice said the U.S. is considering “a wide range of options,” saying it would be “premature to say more than that.”

Some Congressional leaders, including Senator John McCain, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, have called for the U.S. and allies to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.

Obama administration officials say that is one idea under consideration, though it is a complicated action to take, and not something that might be imposed immediately.

“Most of the violence is on the ground,” Clinton told the BBC in an interview in Geneva yesterday.

“That’s one of the drawbacks of a no-fly zone, as we learned in Iraq,” she added. “Sometimes absolutely horrible regimes decide” that a no-fly zone means “it’s open fire on the ground.”

Rules of Engagement

In Washington, Crowley added, “You can’t snap your fingers and declare a no-fly zone. There’s a lot of preparatory work that has to be done.”

“You need rules of engagement, on what happens on when aircraft enter the airspace of another country,” he said, adding that those issues are under discussion with allies.

Clinton said she and counterparts in Geneva discussed providing humanitarian relief and other measures “to determine the best way forward” and “support the Libyan people as they pursue” building a democracy.

The U.S. is focused on keeping medical supplies flowing and making sure the violence does not lead to food shortages, she said. “We have conducted an inventory of all American food aid resources in the region and are prepared to divert or dispatch other food stocks to Libya as the need arises,” she said.

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Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the Pentagon is repositioning military units near Libya for possible use in a humanitarian relief effort, while the U.S. Treasury announced the freeze of $30 billion in assets of Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, his family or the Libyan...
Tuesday, 01 March 2011 07:07 AM
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