Libya mission not for regime change – Obama

President Barack Obama

The US President has hailed the coalition’s progress in stopping Colonel Gaddafi’s “deadly advance” but warned that its mission is not to topple him from power.

In a 27-minute speech, Barack Obama set out why the US had become militarily engaged in another Muslim country and explained the narrow focus of the mission: to protect Libyan civilians, not to force regime change.

Mr Obama said once the UN Security Council agreed Resolution 1973, the swiftly assembled coalition had the legal and moral authority to act when the Libyan leader threatened the rebel-held city of Benghazi.

He said: “At this point, the United States and the world faced a choice.

“Gaddafi declared that he would show ‘no mercy’ to his own people. He compared them to rats, and threatened to go door to door to inflict punishment.

“We knew that if we waited one more day, Benghazi… could suffer a massacre that would have reverberated across the region and stained the conscience of the world.”

He explained that his decision to authorise military engagement was not just based on humanitarian concerns but on America’s national security interests.

“A massacre would have driven thousands of additional refugees across Libya’s borders, putting enormous strains on the peaceful, yet fragile, transitions in Egypt and Tunisia,” he argued.

“The democratic impulses that are dawning across the region would be eclipsed by the darkest form of dictatorship, as repressive leaders concluded that violence is the best strategy to cling to power.

“So while I will never minimize the costs involved in military action, I am convinced that a failure to act in Libya would have carried a far greater price for America.”

He also appeared to criticise his predecessor in the White House, George W Bush, when explaining why the mission was not to target Col Gaddafi.

“To be blunt, we went down that road in Iraq… regime change there took eight years, thousands of American and Iraqi lives, and nearly a trillion dollars.

“That is not something we can afford to repeat in Libya.”

He also set out, for the first time, what is likely to be interpreted as the Obama foreign policy doctrine.

“American leadership is not simply a matter of going it alone and bearing all the burden ourselves,” he said.

“There will be times when our safety is not directly threatened, but our interests and values are.

“Sometimes, the course of history poses challenges that threaten our common humanity and common security: responding to natural disasters, for example; or preventing genocide and keeping the peace; ensuring regional security, and maintaining the flow of commerce.

“These may not be America’s problems alone, but they are important to us, and they are problems worth solving.

“And in these circumstances, we know that the United States, as the world’s most powerful nation, will often be called upon to help.”

As more than 40 nations prepare to discuss the situation at a London conference, there was little mention of how long America will continue to commit its assets, nor what would be deemed ‘mission accomplished’.

The Republican speaker of the House, John Boehner, said Obama provided ‘few new answers’.

“Nine days into this military intervention and Americans still have no answer to the fundamental question: what does success in Libya look like?”

Jon-Christopher Bua, Sky News White House commentator, said: “Through the lens of voter scepticism, with the upcoming 2012 presidential election campaign just a few months away, Obama needed to sell this mission to the American people, promising that this will not turn into another Iraq War.

“Only time and events can determine whether he has the power to keep that promise.”

:: The mother of a woman who was allegedly raped by Libyan officials and tried to explain her story to foreign journalists has said minders tried to buy her silence.

:: A north Africa expert tells Sky News that Colonel Gaddafi is running out of money as rebels have taken control of key oil installations.
Source: Sky News

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