U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton brushed off a threat by Libya's leader to attack civilians in Europe unless NATO ends airstrikes on his capital, Tripoli.
Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi told his supporters at a rally in Tripoli that “homes, offices and families'' in Europe will become legitimate targets for his military if NATO's attacks continue.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton responded at a news conference in Spain, where she is wrapping up a three-nation European tour.
"Instead of issuing threats, Gaddafi should put the well-being and the interest of his own people first, and he should step down from power and help facilitate a democratic transition that will meet the aspirations of the Libyan people," she said.
Gadhafi's threat against Europe was broadcast Friday to a pro-government crowd in Tripoli's main square.
Although his regime has backed militant groups in the past, the Libyan leader has been known to make far-fetched claims before. However, security officials in Europe say they are taking the threat seriously.
Gadhafi's defiant message followed by several days the International Criminal Court's release of arrest warrants for him, his son and Libya's intelligence chief. The indictment against them charges they orchestrated the killing of civilian protesters during the past five months of anti-government protests in Libya.
NATO began its airstrikes to protect Libyan civilians in the anti-Gadhafi campaign from attacks by the country's military. Clinton says the alliance's efforts are working.
"The NATO-led mission is on track, the pressure on Gaddafi is mounting and the rebels are gaining strength and momentum," she said. "We need to see this through, and we are in complete agreement that we will."
Clinton also criticized China for allowing a recent visit to China by Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, even though he has been indicted by the court in The Hague.
Clinton’s visit to Spain was her first as U.S. secretary of state. She urged the Spanish leadership to complete a package of economic reforms to help prevent an international financial crisis.
Spanish media reported that despite a request from Spain's foreign minister, Clinton stopped short of promising concrete help to clean up thousands of hectares of radioactive soil in a southern province Almeria. The contamination has been traced to four nuclear bombs that fell from a B-52 military jet in a refueling accident in 1966.