Washington: US President Barack Obama has said his country is helping those looking for freedom in Libya, ”stopped [Muammar] Gaddafi’s deadly advance” and would continue to seek resignation of the Libyan leader.
“For more than four decades, the Libyan people have been ruled by a tyrant – Muammar Gaddafi. He has denied his people freedom, exploited their wealth, murdered opponents at home and abroad, and terrorised innocent people around the world – including Americans who were killed by Libyan agents,” Obama said in a nationally televised address Monday.
He said the US could not stand aside and watch pro-Gaddafi’s forces attack Benghazi, a city with a population of some 700,000 people, knowing that it would result in a “massacre”.
“We struck regime forces approaching Benghazi to save that city and the people within it. We hit Gaddafi’s troops in neighbouring Ajdabiya, allowing the opposition to drive them out. We hit his air defences, which paved the way for a No Fly Zone. We targeted tanks and military assets that had been choking off towns and cities and we cut off much of their source of supply,” he said.
Obama added that the US would continue to “deny the regime arms, cut off its supply of cash, assist the opposition, and work with other nations to hasten the day when Gaddafi leaves power.”
The US president reminded that NATO decided to take the additional responsibility of “protecting Libyan citizens” and said that the “transfer from the United States to NATO will take place Wednesday”.
On Sunday, NATO began taking command of all aerial operations in Libya from the US-led force. The transfer of authority will take up to three days.
The UN Security Council resolution adopted March 17 imposed a no-fly zone over Libya and measures to protect civilians from Gaddafi’s forces.
Obama said that Libya’s recovery after the period of more than 40 years of Gaddafi’s tyranny will be the task of the international community and the people of Libya.
“The transition to a legitimate government that is responsive to the Libyan people will be a difficult task. And while the United States will do our part to help, it will be a task for the international community, and – more importantly – a task for the Libyan people themselves,” he said.
Western-led military strikes against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, whose forces have been attacking rebels in the east of the North African country since mid-February, began March 19.
The rebel army, which has been fighting pro-Gaddafi forces since mid-February, has made rapid advancements into the west of Libya since the coalition mission began. Insurgents have also approached the key Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte.