U.S. President Barack Obama has reiterated U.S. demands for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to step down, stressing that the goal of the international military operation in Libya was to protect citizens.
Speaking during a joint news conference with Chilean President Sebastian Pinera in Santiago on Monday, Obama said the UN-sanctioned operation was aimed at averting “the humanitarian threat posed by Col. Gaddafi to his people.”
The United States could not “simply stand by with empty words” while Gaddafi, who had “lost his legitimacy,” was “carrying out murders of civilians” and “threatened more,” the U.S. president said.
“It is U.S. policy that Gaddafi needs to go,” he added.
Obama said the United States would soon hand responsibility over to allies who will maintain a no-fly zone over Libya, adding that this was “a matter of days,” not weeks.
“Obviously, the situation is evolving on the ground, and how quickly this transfer takes place will be determined by the recommendation of our commanding officers,” he said.
A military operation against Libya’s strongman Muammar Gaddafi, who has ruled the country with an iron fist for more than 40 years, began on Saturday. On Monday, Western forces launched a second wave of air strikes on Gaddafi’s positions under a UN resolution authorizing military action to protect Libyan civilians.
Libyan television has reported that at least 50 civilians have been killed and over 150 wounded in the UN strikes and that many health and education facilities have been destroyed.
BUENOS AIRES, March 22 (RIA Novosti)