Removing Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi from power will take time, U.S. President Barack Obama said in an interview with ABC News.
“It’s conceivable that the process of actually getting Gadhafi to step down is not going to happen overnight. That it’s going to take a little bit of time,” the U.S. leader said. “And keep in mind, we’ve only been operating here for nine days. But it’s going to take more time before we get the kind of outcome that ultimately we’d like to see.”
The UN Security Council resolution adopted on March 17 imposed a no-fly zone over Libya and authorized all measures to protect civilians from Gaddafi’s forces. Western-led military strikes against Gaddafi, whose forces have been attacking rebels in the east of the North African country since mid-February, began on March 19.
On Sunday, NATO began taking command of all aerial operations in Libya from the U.S.-led force. The transfer of authority will take up to three days.
The rebel army, which has been fighting pro-Gaddafi forces since mid-February, has made rapid advancements into the west of Libya since the international mission began. Insurgents have also approached the key Gaddafi stronghold of Sirte.
“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.
Leaders of 19 states, involved in operation Odyssey Dawn, have repeatedly stated that Gaddafi has lost trust of his people and his rule is illegitimate. Obama says the operation is not directed at physical elimination of the embattled leader.
“I certainly will be supportive of him being removed from power. And we’re going to have to examine what our options are after that,” Obama said.
He also said that the U.S. was not going to interfere in all countries where humanitarian crises may take place.
“Libya was a unique situation. We’ll examine how we can make a difference, not just through military tools, but also through diplomatic and political tools, and economic sanctions,” Obama said.
He added that military operations entail “significant costs and risks” and the U.S. military “is already very overstretched.”
Meanwhile, AFP reported citing its correspondent in the Libyan capital Tripoli, that two loud explosions were heard close to Gaddafi’s tightly guarded residence. Military targets in the suburb of Tajura were also hit.
WASHINGTON, March 30 (RIA Novosti)