U.S. President Barack Obama and his two main European allies — British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy — on Friday acknowledged that toppling the Qadhafi regime was their overriding objective and there would be no let up in NATO's military operations until he was deposed.
In an unprecedented joint statement, they said allowing Col. Qadhafi to remain in power would be an “unconscionable betrayal” of the Libyan people. Col. Qadhafi “must go, and go for good'' to pave the way for a “genuine transition from dictatorship to an inclusive constitutional process''.,They said. it was “impossible to imagine a future for Libya with Qadhafi in power''.
“There is a pathway to peace that promises new hope for the people of Libya: a future without Qadhafi that preserves Libya's integrity and sovereignty and restores her economy and the prosperity and security of her people,'' they said adding that “so long as Qadhafi is in power, NATO and its coalition partners must maintain their operations so that civilians remain protected and the pressure on the regime builds''.
The statement, published in selected American and European newspapers including The Times, was the first explicit enunciation of NATO's real objective. Observers said it also marked America's return to the forefront of the NATO campaign after President Obama had appeared to row back in recent days and announced a scaling down of U.S. military involvement.
The move sparked fears that by seeking to force a regime change, NATO could be in breach of the U.N. mandate which restricted the use of military force only to enforce a no-fly zone in order to protect civilians. A group of British MPs, including those from the ruling Conservative Party, demanded that Parliament be recalled from recess to discuss the issue.
“I feel that mission in Libya has changed quite significantly. When it was put before the House, the emphasis was very much on humanitarian assistance. This has changed into a mission of regime change,'' said Tory MP John Baron.
In France, Defence Minister Gerard Longuet said a new U.N. resolution may be needed to achieve NATO goals pointing that the current mandate “didn't mention the future of Qadhafi''.