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US Says It Cannot Act Alone in Response to Events in Libya

  • Laurel Bowman

Violent crackdowns on protesters continue in Libya, with hundreds now reported dead. In a speech Tuesday, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi threatened to execute those he sees as enemies of the country. Meantime, senior government officials have quit, and Libyan diplomats abroad are stepping down from their posts in support of anti-government protesters. The Obama administration has condemned government violence, but can the U.S. do more? Our reporter has that story.

In the streets of Tripoli, chaos reigns as protesters grow bolder, despite harsh government crackdowns.

Here in Washington, Libyan human rights activist Aly Abuzaakouk says the U.S. needs to step in and stop the slaughter.

"The U.S. is a superpower, still the only superpower, and we know that when a superpower wants to do something they can do it," he said.

Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton outlined the Obama administration’s position on Libya again.

"We have joined with the international community in strongly condemning the violence in Libya," she said. "We will take appropriate steps in line with our policies, our values and our laws, but we are going to have to work in concert with the international community."

Ian Lesser helped formulate policy toward North Africa under President Bill Clinton. He says after years of strained relations with Libya, the U.S. has weak ties inside the country.

"What we can do on the leverage side with regard to changing the situation on the ground in Libya, I think, there is very little we can do," said Lesser.

Lesser predicts that Mr. Gadhafi's days in power are limited and suspects what will emerge are separate groups of armed factions on the ground, more similar to Iraq, than to Egypt or Tunisia.

"We will have to develop connections with whatever the successor authority is in Libya," he said. "Perhaps it is not just one, it may be very difficult to do. Some of these people we might not want to work with. Some of these people may be violent, or highly ideological, or they may not be capable."

There are strong signs of opposition to Mr. Gadhafi. The pilots of two military planes who say they were ordered to fire on demonstrators headed to nearby Malta instead. And Libya's eastern provinces appear under the control of anti-regime forces.

Speaking Tuesday, Libya’s leader was defiant, saying he would die a martyr in his homeland and fight to his last drop of blood.

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