Gaddafi’s departure from Libya inevitable: Obama

WASHINGTON/TRIPOLI, May 20 (Reuters): Muammar Gaddafi will inevitably leave power, U.S. President Barack Obama said, as NATO intensified its weeks-long bombing of government targets and said on Friday it had sunk eight Libyan warships. Obama was speaking in an address on the Middle East where a series of uprisings this year governments in Tunisia and Egypt, and inspired a three-month-old revolt in Libya that aims to overthrow Gaddafi.
"Time is working against Gaddafi. He does not have control over his country. The opposition has organized a legitimate and credible Interim Council," Obama said in Washington on Thursday. "When Gaddafi inevitably leaves or is forced from power, decades of provocation will come to an end and the transition to a democratic Libya can proceed," he said, defending his decision to take military action against the Libyan leader's government.
His comments echoed NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen who said military and political pressure were weakening Gaddafi and would eventually topple him. The Libyan leader remained defiant.
"Obama is still delusional," Libyan government spokesman Mussa Ibrahim said. "He believes the lies that his own government and media spread around the world ... It's not Obama who decides whether Muammar Gaddafi leaves Libya or not. It's the Libyan people." Acting under a U.N. mandate, NATO allies including France, Britain and the United States are conducting air strikes that aim to stop Gaddafi using military force against civilians.
NATO aircraft sank the eight warships in overnight attacks on the ports of Tripoli, Al Khums and Sirte, the alliance said in a statement. "Given the escalating use of naval assets, NATO had no choice but to take decisive action to protect the civilian population of Libya and NATO forces at sea," said Rear-Admiral Russell Harding, deputy commander of NATO's Libyan mission.
Libyan officials took journalists to Tripoli port where a small ship spewed smoke and flames, and cast doubt on whether boats targeted by NATO had been involved in fighting. Mohammad Ahmad Rashed, general manager of Tripoli's port, said six boats had been hit by missiles.
The boats, five belonging to the coastguard and a larger naval vessel, had been undergoing maintenance since before the start of the fighting, he told reporters, adding that the port was still functional and capable of handling commercial traffic. NATO bombs struck Tripoli, Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte and Zlitan east of the capital, state TV said late on Thursday.
Rebels control eastern Libya and pockets in the west but the conflict has reached a stalemate as rebel attempts to advance on Gaddafi's stronghold of Tripoli have stalled. Western governments, under pressure from skeptical voters, are counting on Gaddafi's administration to collapse.
"We have significantly degraded Gaddafi's war machine. And now we see results, the opposition has gained ground," Rasmussen told a news conference in the Slovak capital, Bratislava. "I am confident that a combination of strong military pressure and increased political pressure and support for the opposition will eventually lead to the collapse of the regime."

LIBYA TV SHOWS GADDAFI
Libyan state TV showed footage of Gaddafi meeting a Libyan politician in Tripoli. Government spokesman Ibrahim said the politician had been in a delegation that met Russian officials in Moscow this week to explore possibilities for a ceasefire.
The footage zoomed in on a TV screen in the room that showed Thursday's date displayed in the corner. Gaddafi wore a brown robe with a hat and sunglasses. Gaddafi was last seen on May 11 when state TV showed him meeting tribal leaders in Tripoli. NATO bombed his compound the next day, and a day later TV broadcast an audio clip in which he taunted NATO and said the alliance could not kill him.
The last few days have seen a flurry of diplomatic activity focusing on a possible ceasefire deal. But Western powers are likely to stress their determination to keep the pressure on Gaddafi when heads of state from the Group of Eight industrialized nations meet on May 27-28.
In an attempt to raise pressure on Tripoli, the European Union is considering tightening sanctions by blacklisting some Libyan ports to prevent exports of oil and imports of fuel, a Western diplomatic source told Reuters.
 
‘Gaddafi’s wife, daughter have fled to Tunisia’

Washington, May 20 (Agencies):
Embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's wife and daughter Aisha have fled the country to neighbouring Tunisia, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has said. "The pressure on the Gaddafi regime has increased to the point that Gaddafi's wife and daughter fled across the border into Tunisia in the last two days. The oil minister has defected," she said. In an interview to CBS news, Clinton said progress is being made in Libya.
"There is an enormous amount of increased messaging going to Gaddafi, not just because of the military strikes but from those who he thought were in his camp or at least wouldn't try to push him to leave," she said. "At the same time, the Transitional National Council and their military forces are getting better. They started off as being totally unprepared for what they were confronting. So we're making progress. I wish it would go faster, they certainly wish it would go faster, but we're on the right path," Clinton said.
The Secretary of State has welcomed the release of the foreign journalists in Libya, including two US citizens, and asked the Libyan government to release all US nationals who are still under arrest. "We call upon the Libyan government to immediately release all US citizens and others who are being unjustly detained," Clinton said in a statement yesterday.
"Gaddafi and his regime must allow journalists to carry out their work within Libya free from fear and intimidation and to respect the universal rights of everyone in Libya, including US citizens and others," she said.


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