Obama: Too early to negotiate exit with Gadhafi

AP News
Posted: Mar 29, 2011 7:47 PM
Obama: Too early to negotiate exit with Gadhafi

President Barack Obama pledged Tuesday to increase diplomatic and political pressure on Moammar Gadhafi to compel the Libyan strongman to step down.

"Hopefully, he's going to be getting the message soon," the president said.

In separate network television interviews Tuesday, the president said it's too early to negotiate an exit for Gadhafi. He also did not rule out providing military hardware to rebels seeking to depose Gadhafi and his nearly 42-year-old regime.

"One of the questions that we want to answer is: Do we start getting to a stage where Gadhafi's forces are sufficiently degraded, where it may not be necessary to arm opposition groups," Obama said on NBC Nightly News.

He told CBS Evening News that Gadhafi's inner circle is beginning to recognize that "their days are numbered." He said some may be negotiating to leave the regime. "But that information may not have filtered to Gadhafi yet," he said,

On a day where forces loyal to Gadhafi beat back rebels with tanks and rockets, Obama conceded on ABC that, "it's conceivable that the process of actually getting Gadhafi to step down is not going to happen overnight. That it's going to take a little bit of time."

Obama added: "He's been greatly weakened. His forces have been degraded. But what's absolutely true is that if you measured his remaining capability to rebel or opposition capability then he's still more powerful on the ground in Libya."

On CBS, Obama acknowledged testimony Tuesday by NATO's supreme allied commander in Europe that officials have seen "flickers" of possible al-Qaida and Hezbollah involvement among the rebel forces.

But he said most of the opposition leaders that have dealt with U.S. officials "are professionals, lawyers, doctors _ people who appear to be credible."

Earlier Tuesday, at the dedication of a new building for the U.S. delegation to the U.N, Obama said the nation's conscience and its common interests "compel us to act" to protect civilian lives in Libya. He said the international military effort against Gadhafi places the U.S. at the center of the mission, "but not alone."

In the shadow of the United Nations, the president said the international community is haunted by past failures to save innocent lives. He said force should not be the first option against a country like Libya. But if other measures are not sufficient, he called on nations to uphold international peace and security.

Obama's comments on Libya came a day after he explained his decision to undertake a military mission in Libya during a nationally televised speech. Obama spoke Tuesday during a whirlwind day in New York that included the dedication of the U.S. mission building, named after former Commerce Secretary Ron Brown, a visit to a science and engineering fair, interviews with network anchors and two Harlem political appearances, including a fundraiser that netted $1.5 million for the Democratic National Committee.