West Makes Tough Demands On Gadhafi Regime

The Obama Administration was initially reluctant to support military action against the Gadhafi regime. President Obama said Friday the U.S. backing of intervention in Libya was driven, in his words, "by Gadhafi's refusal to respect the rights of his people and the potential for mass murder of innocent civilians." And Friday, U.S., British, and French governments suggested that they will be satisfied with little less than Gadhafi's removal from power.

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The Obama administration was initially reluctant to support military action against the Gadhafi regime. President Obama said today that U.S. backing for the intervention was driven, in his words, by Gadhafi's refusal to respect the rights of his people and the potential for mass murder of innocent civilians. And today, the U.S., British and French government suggested that they will be satisfied with little less than Gadhafi's removal from power.

NPR's Tom Gjelten reports.

SIEGEL: The Libyan government's promise today to stop all military operations may have been intended to buy time or even block other governments from intervening militarily. But from London to Paris to Washington, allied governments responded to the Libyans with tough demands that will not be easy for Moammar Gadhafi to meet.

Within minutes of the Libyan foreign minister's ceasefire promise, British Prime Minister David Cameron was speaking on the BBC saying the world would judge Gadhafi by his actions, not his words.

Mr. DAVID CAMERON (Prime Minister, Great Britain): What is absolutely clear is the U.N. Security Council resolution says he must stop what he's doing brutalizing his people. If not, all necessary measures can follow to make him stop.

GJELTEN: As the day wore on, the demands became more specific. A ceasefire in place will not be enough to forestall military action. Gadhafi's forces have been steadily pounding the lightly-armed rebels that have dared to oppose him. Each Gadhafi counterattack has been fierce.

In his White House statement today, President Obama said not only that Gadhafi's attacks must stop, he has to withdraw.

Pres. OBAMA: Gadhafi must stop his troops from advancing on Benghazi, pull them back from Ajdabiya, Misurata and Zawiyah and establish water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas.

GJELTEN: The U.N. Security Council resolution specifically charges that Gadhafi and his forces have violated international humanitarian law. President Obama said today his government must be held accountable. That could mean prosecution for war crimes.

In Paris, a French government spokesman said the intervention is meant to allow the Libyan people, quote, "to go to the very end of their desires for the fall of the Gadhafi regime." And in Washington, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton backed that idea up with this statement of what a successful outcome in Libya would require.

Secretary HILLARY CLINTON (Department of State): We do believe that a final result of any negotiations would have to be the decision by Colonel Gadhafi to leave.

GJELTEN: This certainly looks like a military operation intended to bring about the end of the Gadhafi regime. As for who will undertake it, President Obama said U.S. leadership would be essential, but he also made clear the United States would look to others to do much of the combat work.

Pres. OBAMA: We will provide the unique capabilities that we can bring to bear to stop the violence against civilians, including enabling our European allies and Arab partners to effectively enforce a no-fly zone.

GJELTEN: Those unique capabilities could include command and control aircraft, AWAC surveillance planes and cruise missiles. French, British and perhaps Arab pilots may well fly the actual combat missions. The allied countries have a huge military advantage over Gadhafi.

But White House counterterrorism adviser, John Brennan, speaking to NPR today, pointed out that Gadhafi has resorted to terrorism before and could do so again.

Mr. JOHN BRENNAN (Counterterrorism Adviser, White House): Gadhafi has the pension to do things. We have to anticipate things that he might try to do. Terrorism is certainly a tool that a lot of individuals will opt for when they lose other options.

GJELTEN: In the space of less than 24 hours, the battle for Libya has escalated dramatically.

Tom Gjelten, NPR News, Washington.

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