Obama calls for unified global response on Libya
Protesters shout slogans against Libyan Leader Muammar Qadhafi, during a demonstration in Tobruk, Libya, on Wednesday.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday expressed outrage over the bloodshed in Libya and asked the world to speak in one voice against violence by the Qaddafi regime, as his administration evaluated a “range of options” to respond to the crisis.
As blood continued to spill on the streets of Libya for over a week, Mr. Obama, in his first remarks to the press over the crisis, sought to send out a tough message to the Libyan regime, indicating that strong unilateral and multilateral measures may be on their way to put it to accountability.
“In a volatile situation like this one, it is imperative that the nations and peoples of the world speak with one voice, and that has been our focus,” Mr. Obama said.
While Peru has already suspended diplomatic ties with Libya, Germany has sought sanctions against its regime.
Mr. Obama said the suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and unacceptable, and so were the threats being delivered by the regime to punish the people of Libya. “These actions violate international norms and every standard of common decency,” he said in a statement.
He pointed out that a unanimous United Nations Security Council on Tuesday had sent a clear message that it condemns the violence in Libya, supports accountability for the perpetrators, and stands with the Libyan people. This same message, he said, has been delivered by the European Union, the Arab League, the African Union, the Organisation of Islamic Conference and many individual nations.
“North and south, east and west, voices are being raised together to oppose suppression and support the rights of the Libyan people. I’ve also asked my administration to prepare the full range of options that we have to respond to this crisis. This includes those actions we may take and those we will coordinate with our allies and partners, or those that we’ll carry out through multilateral institutions,” he said.
The President said like all governments, the Libyan government has a responsibility to refrain from violence, to allow humanitarian assistance to reach those in need, and to respect the rights of its people.
“It must be held accountable for its failure to meet those responsibilities, and face the cost of continued violations of human rights. This is not simply a concern of the United States. The entire world is watching, and we will coordinate our assistance and accountability measures with the international community,” he said.
The Libyan Interior Ministry has put the death toll in over a week of violence at 300, but Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini claimed that the crackdown has killed as many as 1,000 people.
Reports have said that a number of cities have slipped off government control and were now being held by the people.
Even as international condemnation grew shriller and Libyan government officials and ministers swelled the ranks of defectors, Muammar Qaddafi has shown little signs of budging.
Mr. Obama said Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, Bill Burns, has been asked by the administration to make several stops in Europe and the region to intensify consultations with allies and partners about the situation in Libya.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would to travel to Geneva on Monday, where a number of foreign ministers will convene for a session of the Human Rights Council. “There she’ll hold consultations with her counterparts on events throughout the region and continue to ensure that we join with the international community to speak with one voice to the government and the people of Libya,” he said.
Mr. Obama said the voice for change that has swept the region is being driven by the people of the region and does not represent the work of the U.S. or any other foreign power. “It represents the aspirations of people who are seeking a better life, he observed. As one Libyan said, ‘We just want to be able to live like human beings’ It is the most basic of aspirations that is driving this change.
“And throughout this time of transition, the U.S. will continue to stand up for freedom, stand up for justice, and stand up for the dignity of all people,” Mr. Obama said.