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Libyan Opposition Leader Hails Obama Speech

U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the conflict in Libya during an address at the National Defense University in Washington, March 28, 2011.
U.S. President Barack Obama speaks about the conflict in Libya during an address at the National Defense University in Washington, March 28, 2011.

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  • Clottey interview with Mufta Lamloom, leader of the main opposition Libyan National Movement

Peter Clottey

The leader of the main opposition Libyan National Movement says President Barack Obama’s speech late Monday demonstrates America’s commitment to not abandon ordinary Libyans in their time of need.

Mufta Lamloom says America’s intervention in the Libyan crisis has prevented forces loyal to leader Moammar Gadhafi from massacring ordinary unarmed Libyans who are opposed to what he describes as Gadhafi’s tyrannical rule.

“What I got from the speech is that he was very cautious trying to address the American people about what he did in Libya and that it was a decision that has to be taken without referring to anybody because there was a massacre about to happen in Benghazi,” said Lamloom.

“It means a lot to Libyans. It means that the United States has not abandoned them in their hour of need because, despite all the obligations of the United States, despite all the hardships the whole world is going through, despite their involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the United States has found a way to intervene in the last minute to stop the massacre in Libya,” he added.

In a nationally-televised address Monday from Washington, Obama accused Gadhafi of “brutal repression” and creating a “looming humanitarian crisis,” which he said forced the international community to act.

Lamloom hailed Obama’s speech saying Libyans are encouraged and pleased with America’s intervention.

“[Libyans] will take from the speech that United States has obligations towards the people of the world, especially those who are seeking to liberate themselves from dictatorship and want freedom. This has been shown in a very precise and clear language. He said, whoever is looking for their freedom, they will find a friend in the United States,” Lamloom said.

Obama's speech came 10 days after the Western air campaign against forces loyal to Gadhafi began. He pointed out that the campaign was authorized by what he called a historic vote in the U.N. Security Council and that NATO is to assume enforcement of the no-fly zone and the protection of the Libyan people.

Lamloom also says his expectations about Obama’s speech were met.

“What Libyans see in it [the speech] is that what the coalition or NATO has done is that they have opened the way for Libyans to talk to the chief of the dictatorship. At one point, the Libyans were desperate because Gadhafi was actually massacring the people…he uses the pretext of fighting fundamentalists or al Qaeda,” Lamloom said.

“But, nobody in Libya will believe that because we don’t have those elements in Libya. What Gadhafi was doing was just killing his people systematically. He was encouraging his troops to rape women; that is something that should not be accepted in the Arab World,” he added.

Obama repeated his pledge that the U.S. role would be limited and no U.S. ground forces would be used. The speech was designed to address the concerns of those in Congress and elsewhere who have criticized Obama for failing to clarify U.S. goals before involving U.S. forces in the air assault in support of Libyan rebels.

His speech comes on the eve of a 35-nation conference in London to discuss the situation in Libya and ways to bring about regime change there.

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