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Obama Discusses Libya With US Lawmakers

  • Kent Klein

President Barack Obama talked with members of Congress Friday about the U.S. and allied military action in Libya. Officials say the president will speak to the nation Monday at 7:30 p.m. ET about the mission in Libya.

White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said Friday President Obama was telling lawmakers about the progress made so far in the military action.

Carney told reporters the president would update the lawmakers on the transition of command and control over the Libya no-fly zone from the United States to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

The president’s spokesman said the U.S. and its allies have also agreed that leadership of civilian protection efforts will be transferred to NATO. However, he said details of the implementation have not been worked out.

Carney said Mr. Obama has fulfilled his promise that ending the U.S. leadership of the military mission would be a matter of days, not weeks. "As we brought to bear our unique assets and capabilities to create an environment in Libya that allowed our allies to enforce the no-fly zone and our allies to take the lead in civilian protection. That process is underway right now, as he said. He said what he would do and he is doing what he said," he said.

Carney said the president briefed the lawmakers by telephone, because Congress is in recess.

Some lawmakers in both parties say Mr. Obama should have asked for their approval before launching the U.S. military action, and that he has not adequately consulted them.

Carney contends that the administration has consulted with members of Congress on numerous occasions, before and after the start of the operation.

The press secretary also says that had the president waited for Congress to return to session before starting the mission, the rebel stronghold of Benghazi would have fallen to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces, and many people would have died.

President Obama has not spoken publicly about the Libya mission since he returned from Latin America on Wednesday. But Carney said the president will do so Monday night. "The president, I can tell you with great confidence, will speak about this in the relatively near future, as he has numerous times in the last several days. He believes it is vitally important, as part of his role as president and commander-in-chief, to speak to the American people about an operation like this, and he will do that in the very near future," Carney said.

The Obama administration has said Mr. Gadhafi has lost legitimacy as a leader since attacking civilians, and should step down.

Carney was less specific about whether the White House would call on Yemen’s president Ali Abdullah Saleh, a longtime U.S. ally, to leave power. "It is not for us to decide the leaders of other countries. We have said to the leadership in Yemen what we have said to the leadership in other countries: It is not acceptable to use violence against peaceful protesters. We condemn that," he said.

Carney said U.S. forces are intervening in Libya, but not other Middle Eastern countries where civilians are being attacked, because of the scale of the violence taking place in Libya and the potential for greater civilian bloodshed.