U.S. President Barack Obama said Thursday the death of Muammar Qaddafi ended a long, painful chapter for Libyans and warned “iron fist” regimes in the rest of the Arab world they would inevitably fall.
“Across the Arab world, citizens have stood up to claim their rights. Youth are delivering a powerful rebuke to dictatorship. And those leaders who try to deny their dignity will not succeed,” he said.
“For the region, today’s events prove once more that the rule of an iron fist inevitably comes to an end.”
Speaking in the White House Rose Garden, Obama said Qaddafi’s demise vindicated the collective military action of the West and said Libyans now had a chance to build a “democratic” and “tolerant nation, according to AFP.
Obama said the United States would be a partner to Libya and said the NATO mission in the North African country would “soon come to an end.”
“This marks the end of a long and painful chapter for the people of Libya who now have the opportunity to determine their own destiny in a new and democratic Libya,” he told reporters according to Reuters.
“Just one year ago, the notion of a free Libya seemed impossible, but then the Libyan people rose up and demanded their rights.”
“This is a momentous day in the history of Libya, the dark shadow of tyranny has been lifted,” Obama said.
“With this enormous promise, the Libyan people now have a great responsibility to build an inclusive and tolerant and democratic Libya that stands as the ultimate rebuke to Qaddafi’s dictatorship.”
Obama said that Washington looked forward to an official announcement of Libya’s liberation, which officials in Tripoli said could come as early as Friday.
The president, who was criticized by Republicans either for failing to take a more proactive role in the NATO operation in Libya, or for intervening at all, also had a warning for other dictatorial leaders in the Middle East.
Obama did not mention any nations by name, but his remarks appeared to be a clear reference to U.S. foes Syria and Iran which have both violently put down movements for change.
The president also remember those Americans who had been killed in terror attacks orchestrated by Qaddafi’s Libya, perhaps thinking especially of those who died in Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.
“We are reminded today of all those Americans that we lost at the hands of Qaddafi’s terror, their families and friends are in our thoughts and in our prayers,” Obama said.
“We recall their bright smiles, their extraordinary lives, and their tragic deaths,” he said.