Thursday, March 17, 2011

Obama Tells Qaddafi to Quit and Authorizes Refugee Airlifts

President Obama demanded Thursday that the embattled Libyan leader, Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi, “step down from power and leave” immediately, and said he would consider a full range of options to stem the bloodshed there, though he did not commit the United States to any direct military action.

In his most forceful response to the near-civil war in Libya, Mr. Obama said the United States would consider imposing a “no-flight zone” over the country — a step his defense secretary, Robert M. Gates, warned a day earlier would carry major risks, requiring the United States to destroy Libya’s air defenses.

Mr. Obama said the United States and the world were outraged by Colonel Qaddafi’s “appalling violence against the Libyan people.” Speaking after he met with President Felipe Calderón of Mexico at the White House, he declared, “Muammar Qaddafi has lost the legitimacy to lead, and he must leave.”

The administration has moved rapidly on other fronts. The Treasury Department has frozen an additional $1.2 billion in Libyan assets this week, bringing the total of blocked funds to nearly $32 billion.

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