“The Qaddafi regime is coming to an end, and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people,” Obama said, while warning that the fight for control isn’t over yet.
“We have reports of regime elements threatening to continue fighting,” Obama said from the vacation house where he’s staying on Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts. “Although it’s clear that Qaddafi’s rule is over, he still has the opportunity to reduce further bloodshed by explicitly relinquishing power to the people of Libya.”
Obama spoke as the rebels surged into the Libyan capital of Tripoli and declared Qaddafi’s 42-year rule “is over.” Opposition fighters engaged pockets of loyalist troops near the presidential compound in southern Tripoli and in the center of the capital.
The U.S. president called on rebel forces to refrain from reprisals against regime members and promised aid to help the transition to a new government. Obama said he spoke earlier with U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron and that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton talked with her counterparts from other nations in the coalition that has supported the Libyan opposition with air strikes and intelligence on Qaddafi’s forces since March.
Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman, said the U.S. had no immediate information on Qaddafi’s whereabouts.
“There’s no evidence to indicate that he’s left” Libya, Earnest said.
Obama said the U.S. and NATO operation in Libya “demonstrates what the international community can achieve when we stand together as one” and shows that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization “is the most capable alliance in the world.”
Obama’s decision to take part in the air campaign in support of the Libyan rebels was criticized by many of his political opponents, including the Republicans seeking their party’s presidential nomination for 2012.
One candidate, Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota, argued that the president failed to articulate U.S. goals or identify a vital national interest for military involvement in Libya and criticized him for deferring to NATO on the mission lead. She voted in June against authorizing the mission and called for cutting off funding.
‘Long in Coming’
On the other side, Arizona Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential candidate in 2008, faulted Obama for not going far enough.
“Americans can be proud of the role our country has played in helping to defeat Qaddafi, but we regret that this success was so long in coming due to the failure of the United States to employ the full weight of our airpower,” McCain said in a joint statement yesterday with Republican Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina.
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