Russia speaks out against arming Libyan rebels
U.S. President Barack Obama said in an NBC interview Tuesday that he did not rule out arming Libyan rebels as they seek to make territorial gains and overthrow Muammar Gaddafi.
"I’m not ruling it out. But I’m also not ruling it in. We’re still making an assessment partly about what Gaddafi’s forces are going to be doing," Obama said in the interview.
And he said in an ABC interview that he had already agreed to provide nonlethal aid such as communications equipment, medical supplies and potentially transportation aid to the Libyan opposition.
"We are going to be looking at all options to provide support to the Libyan people so that we can transition towards a more peaceful and more stable Libya," Obama said.
Gaddafi "ultimately" out
Obama also said that he was confident that Libyan strongman Gaddafi would "ultimately" step down under intense international pressure.
"I think what we’re seeing is that the circle around Gaddafi understands that the noose is tightening, that their days are probably numbered, and they are going to have to think through what their next steps are," he said.
The U.S. president said that the Libya operation was an example of how the world "should work" with the United States at the center of a broad international coalition.
Obama expanded upon his explanation of his decision to launch an air assault on Gaddafi’s forces to protect civilians and set up a no-fly zone as he dedicated a new U.S. mission to the United Nations in New York.
"That’s how the international community should work — more nations (with) the United States right there at the center of it, but not alone, everybody stepping up, bearing their responsibilities," Obama said.
"That’s what it means to be (the) United Nations," Obama said, opening the new facility named after Ron Brown, former president Bill Clinton’s commerce secretary, who perished in a plane crash in Croatia in 1996.
"We believe that the world is more secure and the interests of the United States are best advanced when we act collectively," said Obama.
"The burden of action should not always be America’s alone."
The current air operation over Libya has seen the United States play the dominant role, but Washington says it will increasingly play a support role to its partners including France, Britain, Italy, and Arab states including Qatar.
NATO earlier delayed its assumption of command and control responsibilities for the operation by one day to Thursday, to allow a smoother handover from the United States.
"Today in Libya, we are showing what’s possible when we find our courage; when we fulfill our responsibilities and when we come together, as an international community, to defend our common interests and our common values," Obama said.
"We’re saving innocent lives."
With unrest convulsing Syria, Yemen and Bahrain, Obama said his Libyan policy should not necessarily be viewed as an "Obama Doctrine," saying each country in the region is different.
While force was used in Libya, he said, this "does not mean that somehow we are going to go around trying to use military force to impose or apply certain forms of government."
While Western world powers mull a decision on whether to arm opposition forces in Libya, Russia warned the West on Wednesday against arming the anti-Gaddafi forces and said Libyans must forge their country’s political future without interference.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov emphasized Russia’s opposition.
"Not long ago the French foreign minister announced that France is ready to discuss weapons supplies to the Libyan opposition with its coalition partners," Lavrov told a news conference after talks with his Austrian counterpart.
"Right away, NATO Secretary-General (Anders) Fogh Rasmussen said the Libyan operation is being conducted to protect the population, not to arm it. We fully agree with the NATO secretary-general on this," Lavrov said.
Speaking of Libya’s political future, Lavrov said it was obvious the country was "ripe for reforms" but added that "the Libyan sides must agree on what the Libyan state should be."
"It’s clear that it will be a different regime, and it’s clear that it should be a democratic regime, but Libyans themselves must decide without influence from outside."