The leaders of the United States, France and Britain said in a joint statement published Friday it is "unthinkable" that Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi can play a part in a future Libyan government. However, President Barack Obama continues to resist allied calls that the United States return to a lead role in the NATO-led Libyan air campaign.
NATO has said that its air operations over Libya are aimed at protecting civilians rather that regime change.
But in an unusual joint commentary, President Obama, British Prime Minister David Cameron and French President Nicolas Sarkozy said continued rule by Muammar Gadhafi, who they said has tried to massacre his own people, is "unthinkable" and would be an "unconscionable betrayal" of Libyans who have risen up against him.
The strongly-worded op-ed column, carried Friday by the International Herald-Tribune, the Times of London and Le Figaro, appeared aimed at projecting allied unity amid a public feud within NATO about the conduct of the air campaign.
The three leaders said their duty and mandate under last month’s U.N. Security Council resolution 1973 is to protect civilians and not remove Mr. Gadhafi by force.
However they said it is impossible to imagine a future for Libya with him in power, and said the International Criminal Court is rightly investigating crimes against civilians and "grievous" violations of international law committed by Gadhafi forces trying to put down the rebellion.
Amid rebel appeals for intensified NATO air operations, there have been calls within the alliance for the United States to return to the lead role it played in the opening days of the offensive last month.
But in a broadcast interview with the Associated Press Friday, President Obama said he is impressed with what NATO has been able to achieve with U.S. forces in a support role, and that he does not think a bigger American share of strike operations is necessary.
"We’ve gotten good participation from our coalition partners. They are doing exactly what they promised they would do. They are still striking at targets, Gadhafi targets, particularly those that start moving on the offensive against opposition areas. And what we’re doing is we’re still providing jamming capacity, intelligence, refueling. So we’ve still got a lot of planes in the air up there. We’re just not the ones involved in the direct strikes on the ground for the most part," he said.
The President spoke of a stalemate on the ground between Gadhafi forces and rebels.
But he said the Tripoli government is being squeezed and running out of money and supplies, and said if pressure is maintained over the long term, in his wods "Gadhafi will go", and we will be successful.
At the NATO foreign ministers meeting in Berlin, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the allies are looking for ways to financially support the opposition Libyan National Council. "The opposition needs a lot of assistance, on the civilian organizational side, on the humanitarian side, and on the military side. There have been a number of discussions about how best to provide that assistance, who is willing to do what. We’re also searching for ways to provide funding to the opposition so that they can take care of some of these needs themselves," she said.
The Secretary said the discussion in Berlin included ways to free up assets that could be used by the opposition, presumably from Gadhafi funds impounded by the United States and other countries, and how the opposition could sell oil from areas it controls.
The Gulf state of Qatar this week said it has marketed some oil from rebel-held areas, and also managed to send badly-needed shipments of refined fuels to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.