US President Barack Obama pressed Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi to “explicitly” give up power and warned exuberant rebels that their struggles were “not over yet.”
“The Libya that you deserve is within your reach,” the president said in a message to Libya’s rebels, cautioning “there will be huge challenges ahead” as they replace Qaddafi’s iron-fisted four decade rule with a new government.
Looking beyond the Qaddafi era, Obama vowed that Washington will be “a friend and a partner” in the strife-torn country’s future and urged “an inclusive transition that leads to a democratic Libya.”
“The situation is still very fluid. There remains a degree of uncertainty, and there are still regime elements who pose a threat,” Obama warned in a hastily arranged public appearance on as he vacationed on the resort island of Martha’s Vineyard.
“Although it’s clear that Qaddafi’s rule is over, he still has the opportunity to reduce further bloodshed by explicitly relinquishing power to the people of Libya and calling for those forces that continue to fight to lay down their arms for the sake of Libya,” said the US president.
Obama also warned Libya’s rebels against targeting regime loyalists, urging “a transition that is peaceful, inclusive and just” and noting the movement’s National Transitional Council (NTC) leadership “has made clear the rights of all Libyans must be respected.”
“True justice will not come from reprisals and violence; it will come from reconciliation and a Libya that allows its citizens to determine their own destiny,” Obama said.
“In that effort, the United States will be a friend and a partner,” he said, vowing to meet the country’s humanitarian needs with “critical supplies” and ultimately support the emerging government with Qaddafi’s frozen assets.
Obama said US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with her counterparts in key countries and that he had directed the US envoy to the United Nations, Susan Rice, to ask UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon to use September’s general assembly “to support this important transition.”