LAGOS (Reuters) - Western nations were right to intervene in Libya to prevent the killing of civilians and Muammar Gaddafi still has the chance to leave power peacefully, former U.S. President Bill Clinton said Friday.
Clinton, who authorized the use of U.S. troops in a NATO bombing campaign in Kosovo during his presidency in the late 1990s, dismissed the prospect of NATO getting bogged down in a prolonged war in Libya, saying Western powers had made it clear they would not send in ground troops.
"(The Libyans) want this, in so far as possible, to be their own revolt as it was in Tunisia, as it was in Egypt, as it has been in Yemen," Clinton told Reuters during a visit to Nigeria's commercial capital Lagos.
"But the imbalance in arms was so great and (Gaddafi's) willingness to kill his own people so unlimited that someone had to try to at least balance the scales and give them a chance. All we're doing is giving them a chance. I hope they make it."
Western warplanes bombed Gaddafi's tanks and artillery in eastern Libya Friday to try to break a battlefield stalemate and help shift the balance of power in favor of the Arab world's most violent popular revolt.
NATO said its no-fly operation could last three months.
"It's impossible to know what's going to happen but I think the international community did the right thing to stop what clearly was going to be a wholesale killing of the people who want to replace Mr Gaddafi," Clinton said.
"It would be a good thing if he left, he could still leave peacefully. He has plenty of money, he could go into exile and give the people their country back and their oil back ... That oil belongs to the people of Libya and it's being used to pay for mercenaries to come in and kill them," he said.