President Barack Obama discussed the NATO-led military operation in Libya Thursday with one of the two Arab members of the coalition. The president met with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Hamad bin Khalifa Al-Thani, as questions arose about the NATO mission.
President Obama thanked Sheikh Hamad for supporting democracy in the Middle East and for helping bring about a peaceful transition in Libya. "He is motivated by a belief that the Libyan people should have the rights and freedoms of all people. And as a consequence, Qatar is not only supportive diplomatically, but is also supportive militarily," he said.
The president credited the emir with helping to assemble the European-Arab coalition that is working to protect civilians from Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s forces.
The emir met with Vice President Joe Biden on Wednesday, while Qatar was hosting one of a series of international meetings seeking a diplomatic solution to the situation in Libya.
Libya’s former foreign minister and intelligence chief, Moussa Koussa, who recently defected to Britain, was among those at Wednesday’s Libya Contact Group meeting in Doha.
After France asked for the United States to resume airstrikes in Libya, White House Spokesman Jay Carney said Thursday that the U.S. still has faith in NATO’s ability to lead those operations.
"We also have great confidence in NATO’s capacity to fulfill the mission. The tempo of the campaign questions should be asked at NATO or at the Defense Department, but it is my understanding that that tempo has picked up," he said.
Carney also told reporters that he is not alarmed by video of Mr. Gadhafi riding through the streets of Tripoli, waving from his open-top car.
"A repressive leader’s ability to create a little propaganda is not unprecedented. It happens all the time. I will tell you simply that what we and our international partners are doing every day is tightening the noose around Gadhafi through the sanctions that we have implemented and the other measures that we have taken," he said.
Carney reminded reporters that the mission of the NATO operation is to protect civilians, not to remove Moammar Gadhafi from power.
President Obama and the emir of Qatar also discussed efforts to bring peace to Sudan’s Darfur region, and to Israel and the Palestinians.
Sheikh Hamad said the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is the most important issue in the region, and that he supports Mr. Obama’s position in favor of two states coexisting peacefully.