In the strongest statement emanating from the White House United States President Barack Obama said on Friday that Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi needs to step down from power and leave.
At a joint press conference with visiting Mexican President Felipe Calderon, Mr. Obama said that given the humanitarian crisis brewing in Libya he had authorised the U.S. Aid to send humanitarian assistance teams to the Libyan border, with the intention that they would work with the United Nations and international NGOs inside Libya “to address the urgent needs of the Libyan people.”
Earlier, reports quoted António Guterres, the United Nations high commissioner for refugees, saying that “the numbers of workers able to leave Tunisia were still being dwarfed by the number of those pouring in,” and describing the situation as “a logistical nightmare.”
On Thursday Mr. Obama argued that Qaddafi had lost the legitimacy to lead and he must leave, and also that in addition to halting the violence, the Libyan regime ought to ensure that those who perpetrated violence against the Libyan people were held accountable.
However Mr. Obama cautioned that there may be situations in which Qadhafi “hunkered down in his compound but the economy or food distribution systems in Tripoli, for example, [started] deteriorating.” In that case the challenge would be to figure out how the U.S. could potentially get food in there, he added.
He also warned of the danger of “a stalemate that over time could be bloody,” and said that that was something that the U.S. was considering in its assessment of the unfolding situation.
In the last week the U.S. imposed unilateral sanctions, including an assets freeze, against the Libyan government, following which the UN Security Council also imposed sanctions. Recent days have also witnessed Western military forces repositioning around Libya, primarily to assist with and humanitarian evacuations and assistance.
Additionally, following the violent crackdown by Libyan forces on protestors in Tripoli “tens of thousands of people” had had gathered at a border and to help them reach their homes the U.S. was using military and civilian aircraft, he said.
Yet the President said that his administration would reiterate the clear message that “it’s time for Qadhafi to go,” over and above a host of military and non-military actions that the U.S. would undertake along with its partners. These measures might still include the possibility of a no-fly-zone, he said, an option that U.S. officials had been discussing but thus far not committed to.