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Obama to Gadhafi: Stop or face military action

By Bradley Klapper

Associated Press

Published: Friday, March 18 2011 2:04 p.m. MDT

President Barack Obama makes a statement on Libya, Friday, March 18, 2011, in the East Room of the White House in Washington. (AP Photo)

The Associated Press

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama demanded Friday that Moammar Gadhafi halt all military attacks on civilians and said that if the Libyan leader did not stand down the United States would join other nations in launching military action against him.

However, Obama also said the United States "is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya."

In a brief appearance at the White House, Obama said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would travel to Paris on Saturday to join allies in discussing next steps in Libya, where Gadhafi has pressed a brutal crackdown against rebels trying to end his 42-year reign.

Stressing that the United States was acting in concert with European allies and Arab nations, the president said, "Our goal is focused, our cause is just and our coalition is strong."

Obama's remarks came less than 24 hours after the United Nations Security Council voted to authorize military action — including a "no-fly zone" over Libya — to prevent the killing of civilians by Gadhafi's forces.

The president also spoke with congressional leaders before his public statement.

He drew quick support from House Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi, a longtime critic of the war in Iraq.

"I commend the president for his leadership and prudence on how our nation will proceed in regards to Libya and work in concert with European and Arab allies to address the crisis," she said in a written statement.

At the White House, Obama said there should be no doubt about Gadhafi's intentions "because he has made them clear. Just yesterday, speaking of the city of Benghazi, a city of roughly 700,000, he threatened 'we will have no mercy and no pity.' No mercy on his own citizens."

The president has been criticized by some U.S. lawmakers and others for not moving more forcefully while Gadhafi has regrouped in recent days and taken the offensive against the rebels. Obama said the United States and other nations have imposed sanctions on Libya, frozen assets of the leader and delivered humanitarian supplies to bordering countries to help ease the plight of thousands fleeing the fighting.

"Now, once more, Moammar Gadhafi has a choice," Obama said, listing what he said were non-negotiable conditions laid out by the U.N. Security Council.

"If Gadhafi does not comply, the international community will impose consequences, and the resolution will be enforced through military action," Obama said.

He did not specify what responsibilities would fall to the United States if military action is carried out against Gadhafi, but officials have said previously that American forces would help enforce a no-fly zone to prevent the Libyan leader from using his air force to bomb civilians.

The president made no reference to a Libya's declaration of an immediate cease-fire on Friday — a statement that a rebel spokesman said was fiction.

Instead, Obama listed a series of demands for Gadhafi, including the halting of all attacks against civilians, a stop to military action against Benghazi and other cities and permission for humanitarian supplies to reach the civilian population of the country.

"Let me be clear, these terms are not negotiable," he said.

"Our goal is focused, our cause is just, and our coalition is strong," the president said.

He emphasized that the United States was not acting alone but in concert with Britain, France and Arab countries he did not name.

"Change in the region will not and cannot be imposed by the United States or any foreign power. Ultimately, it will be driven by the people of the Arab world," he said.

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