Washington — The Obama administration welcomes a decision by the 22-member Arab League to support a no-fly zone over Libya because the move strengthens international pressure on Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi, White House press secretary Jay Carney said March 12.
"The international community is unified in sending a clear message that the violence in Libya must stop and that the Qadhafi regime must be held accountable," Carney said in a prepared statement.
The United States will continue to advance efforts to pressure the Qadhafi regime, support the Libyan opposition and prepare for all contingencies, Carney said. And the United States will work in close coordination with international partners, he added.
At a news conference on March 11, President Obama said Qadhafi is "on the wrong side of history. I believe that the Libyan people are anxious for freedom and the removal of somebody who has suppressed them for decades now."
The Arab League called for the U.N. Security Council to impose a no-fly zone over Libya as soon as possible in an effort to curb violence against those who have actively opposed the Qadhafi regime, according to a statement from the group.
In its March 12 statement, the league asked "the United Nations to shoulder its responsibility ... to impose a no-fly zone over the movement of Libyan military planes and to create safe zones in the places vulnerable to airstrikes."
Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa told reporters in Cairo after the conference that the measures being urged are intended to be humanitarian to protect Libyan civilians and others. According to published news reports, Syria, Algeria and Mauritania voted against the measure.
Moussa told reporters that the decision would be sent to the United Nation, which will consider the request and determine how it might be enforced.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said during congressional hearings on March 10 that she is traveling to Paris for consultations with foreign ministers from the Group of Eight (G8) nations and Libyan opposition leaders on March 14 and March 15. From Paris, Clinton is expected to travel on to Cairo and then to Tunis, Tunisia.
The G8 countries are the United Kingdom, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States.
During her consultations in Egypt and Tunisia, Clinton told the congressional committee, she would press for greater democratic changes.
Obama has called on Qadhafi to leave power now, saying that he and his government must be held accountable for violating the human rights of the Libyan people and brutalizing them.
In a telephone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on February 26, Obama shared his deep concern about the Libyan government's continued violation of human rights and brutal treatment of the Libyan people, and said the use of violence against the Libyan people calls into question the legitimacy of Qadhafi's rule, the White House said.
Clinton further amplified the president's position, saying that it is clear the Libyan people want Qadhafi out of power.
"We have always said that the Qadhafi government's future is a matter for the Libyan people to decide, and they have made themselves clear," Clinton said February 26. "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."
The call comes as the United States has imposed new financial and travel sanctions on Qadhafi, his regime and his family along with 10 of his closest supporters and associates.
Libya has been gripped by civil strife that began with nonviolent demonstrations against the government on February 15. Now, most of the eastern half of the North African nation, which faces the Mediterranean Sea and is bordered by Tunisia and Egypt, is under partial control by rebelling Libyans, but street fighting and protests have spread to the borders of the Libyan capital city, Tripoli.
The U.N. Security Council voted 15-0 on February 26 to impose political and financial sanctions on Qadhafi, his supporters and his government in a move intended to impose immediate measures to stop the violence, ensure accountability and provide humanitarian assistance to the Libyan people.
Additionally, the U.N. Security Council measure is the first unanimous resolution that refers the case of "heinous human rights violations to the International Criminal Court," says U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice.
The U.N. sanctions also impose a strong arms embargo and take steps against the use of mercenaries by the Libyan government to attack its own people, Rice told reporters.