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Obama: Coalition Military Strikes Answer Libyan People's Calls

US President Barack Obama makes a statement on the ongoing showdown in Libya, during his news conference at the Palacio do Planalto in Brasilia, Brazil, March 19, 2011
US President Barack Obama makes a statement on the ongoing showdown in Libya, during his news conference at the Palacio do Planalto in Brasilia, Brazil, March 19, 2011

Saying the United States and its allies are "answering the calls of a threatened people", President Obama has spoken in more detail about coalition military action against forces of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Saying he ordered U.S. armed forces to begin a limited military action, the president said attacks by a broad coalition are aimed at protecting the Libyan people and enforcing the UN Security Council resolution approved last week.

Speaking as ship and submarine-fired Tomahawk cruise missiles hit Libyan military targets, Mr. Obama said Mr. Gadhafi had ignored international calls for a ceasefire. "Despite the hollow words of his government he has ignored that opportunity.  His attacks on his own people have continued, his forces have been on the move, and the danger faced by the people of Libya has grown," he said.

Use of military force is not a choice he made lightly, the president said, and he reiterated that there will be no involvement on the ground by U.S. troops.

But he said the world could not stand idly by while, in his words,  "a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy." "So we must be clear  actions have consequences, and the writ of the international community must be enforced.  That is the cause of this coalition."  

Earlier, French aircraft began strikes against Libyan government forces, and the Pentagon said some 112 cruise missiles from U.S. and British ships and submarines hit 20 Libyan surface to air missile and communication sites.

Admiral William Gortney is director of the U.S. military's joint staff: "Our mission right now is to shape the battle space in such a way that our partners may take the lead in execution.  As the president has said, we are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal, specifically the protection of civilians in Libya," he said.
The admiral would not discuss what he called potential future operations, including whether these would involve targeting of Gadhafi command and control targets.

Aside from France, the coalition includes Britain, Italy and Canada, with expected participation by Arab countries.  The Pentagon says other countries in Europe, and Arab countries involved would make their own announcements.

Earlier, Libyan government troops entered the second largest city of Benghazi in defiance of international demands and ignoring an earlier ceasefire proclamation.

Speaking in Paris earlier Saturday,  Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. will use all its capabilities to help European and other partners in implementing the no-fly zone in Libyan skies. "The world will not sit idly by while more innocent civilians are killed.  The U.S will support our allies and partners as they move to enforce [UN] resolution 19-73.  We are standing with the people of Libya and we will not waiver in our efforts to protect them," she said.

In a letter to President Obama and other world leaders, the Libyan leader said the president would regret what he called "intervention in the internal affairs of Libya", calling it aggression.

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