WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Barack Obama warned Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on Friday to comply with U.N. demands for a ceasefire or else face consequences that include military action.
He said Gaddafi must stop advances on the rebel capital of Benghazi.
"All attacks against all civilians must stop," Obama said in a White House speech.
Obama, offering his first justification to Americans for getting the U.S. military involved in Libya, said the goal is to protect Libyan citizens from what he called Gaddafi's campaign of repression against his people.
And he said the U.S. role would be limited.
"The United States is not going to deploy ground troops into Libya and we are not going to use force to go beyond a well-defined goal, specifically the protection of civilians in Libya," he said.
Obama said Gaddafi has been given ample warning to stop attacking his own people but has ignored international demands.
Left unchecked, he said, there is every reason to believe Gaddafi would commit atrocities and many thousands could die.
"The United States did not seek this outcome. Our decisions have been driven by Gaddafi's refusal to respect the rights of his people and the potential for mass murder of innocent civilians," he said.
Obama said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton would travel to Paris on Saturday to attend an international meeting on the Libyan crisis to discuss the next steps following approval on Thursday of a U.N. Security Council resolution on Libya.
(Reporting by Caren Bohan, Patricia Zengerle and Steve Holland, editing by Anthony Boadle)