News / USA

Obama Calls for Gadhafi's Immediate Departure

Muammar Gadhafi (file photo)
Muammar Gadhafi (file photo)

President Obama is calling for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to step down immediately. The call came in a statement issued by the White House detailing a private phone conversation Mr. Obama had with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

In his phone call with Chancellor Merkel, according to the White House statement, President Obama shared "deep concerns" about the Libyan government's continued violation of human rights and brutalization of its people.

He told Ms. Merkel that when a leader's only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule, and "needs to do what is right for his country by "leaving now."

It's the first time since the Libyan crisis began that President Obama has directly called for Gadhafi's departure, and its significance is magnified by the fact that it was issued in connection with a conversation with another major world leader.

Saturday's White House Statement also said President Obama and Chancellor Merkel discussed what it called appropriate and effective ways for the international community to respond.

They also reaffirmed their support for the Libyan people's demand for universal rights and a government that is responsive to their aspirations - and agreed that the Gadhafi government must be held accountable.

In a statement also issued Saturday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. is moving quickly on a series of steps to hold the Libyan government accountable and mobilize a strong international response.

Clinton said an order she signed revokes U.S. visas held by senior Gadhafi government officials, others responsible for human rights violations in Libya, and their immediate family members.

President Obama has already ordered unilateral sanctions against the Gadhafi government.  In an Executive Order on Friday, the president froze assets of and imposed financial sanctions on members of the Libyan regime responsible for abuses, and suspended limited defense trade with Libya.

In her Saturday statement, Secretary Clinton said Gadhafi had lost the legitimacy to rule and the confidence of his people, Clinton also called for the Libyan leader to leave "without further bloodshed and violence".

Clinton, who will travel to Geneva for an emergency meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council, said the U.S. is working with friends and partners on a strong and unified response, adding she has continued close consultations with European allies.

In other developments, British Prime Minister David Cameron chaired an urgent government meeting in London on Saturday about Libya, and also spoke with Chancellor Merkel, as well as the leaders of Italy and Turkey.

A spokesman for Cameron said he and his counterparts agreed on the need for "urgent action" through the European Union and United Nations, including a tough package of sanctions.

Libyan leader Gadhafi told his supporters in Tripoli  that he would fight what he called "foreign aggression" and vowed to fight those trying to oust his government.

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