Clinton: Fears of Libyan `unspeakable atrocities'

  • Sat Mar 19th 2011

PARIS – U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Saturday that the U.S. will bring "unique capabilities to bear" in Libya as a global coalition began enforcing a U.N.-authorized no-fly zone to protect civilians from Moammar Gadhafi's forces.

The world will not "sit idly by," she said at a news conference, amid fears that Gadhafi will commit "unspeakable atrocities" against his people.

"We have every reason to fear that left unchecked Gadhafi would commit unspeakable atrocities," she told reporters after an international conference at which world powers launched enforcement of the no-fly zone.

Clinton said there was no evidence that Gadhafi's forces were respecting an alleged cease-fire they proclaimed and the time for action was now.

"Our assessment is that the aggressive action by Gadhafi's forces continue in many parts of the country," she said. "We have seen no real effort on the part of the Gadhafi forces to abide by a cease-fire."

"Further delay will only put more civilians at risk," she said. "So let me be very clear on the position of the United States: We will support an international coalition as it takes all necessary measures to enforce" the no-fly zone and protect Libyan civilians.

She said that Gadhafi must put the cease-fire into place immediately, stop advancing on the opposition-held city of Benghazi, turn on water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas of the country and reopen hospitals and clinics.

She made clear that the U.S. has no intention of sending ground troops into Libya and insisted that the Obama administration was working only in collaboration with the coalition.

"We did not lead this, we did not engage in unilateral actions in any way," Clinton said. She emphasized that "we are standing with the people of Libya, and we will not waver."

Despite U.S. support for the operation, Clinton said the United States had not yet decided on whether to follow France's lead in recognizing an opposition leadership council as the legitimate government of Libya. She said U.S. officials were in constant contact with opposition figures but would wait for developments to play out before deciding how to deal with the council.

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