By Karen Parrish
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Aug. 22, 2011 – NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen today joined President Barack Obama in declaring that Moammar Gadhafi’s regime is crumbling and that the Libyan leader should step down to spare his people further bloodshed and suffering.
“The sooner Gadhafi realizes that he cannot win the battle against his own people, the better,” Rasmussen said in a televised statement.
Libyan rebels have assumed control of much of the capital city of Tripoli, and Obama released a statement yesterday saying that Libya had reached a tipping point and its capital was “slipping from the grasp of a tyrant.”
“The people of Libya are showing that the universal pursuit of dignity and freedom is far stronger than the iron fist of a dictator,” Obama said. Gadhafi must acknowledge that he no longer controls Libya and relinquish power once and for all, the president added.
The Libyan people have suffered under Gadhafi’s rule for more than four decades, Rasmussen said in his statement today, but now have a chance for a new beginning.
“Now is the time for all threats against civilians to stop, as the United Nations Security Council demanded,” he said. “Now is the time to create a new Libya – a state based on freedom, not fear; democracy, not dictatorship; the will of the many, not the whims of a few.”
That transition must come peacefully, must come now, and must be led and defined by the Libyan people, he added.
Libya’s civil war developed after the Gadhafi regime’s forces killed hundreds of protesters in February. Forces opposing the government announced Feb. 27 in Benghazi they had formed the Transitional National Council with the goal of overthrowing Gadhafi’s government and holding democratic elections.
March 19, a United States-led coalition began air operations to prevent further attacks by regime forces on the Libyan people. At the end of March, NATO took over responsibility and the United States assumed a supporting role.
The United States has recognized the Transitional National Council as the legitimate governing authority in Libya, Obama said in his statement. The council now has the responsibility to set a new course for Libya by respecting the rights of the people, avoiding civilian casualties, protecting the institutions of the Libyan state and pursuing a transition to democracy, he added.
“A season of conflict must lead to one of peace,” the president said.
Obama pledged that the United States will continue to work with international allies and partners to protect the Libyan people and support a peaceful transition to democracy, and Rasmussen said NATO also is ready to work with the Libyan people and with the Transitional National Council.
“Gadhafi's remaining allies and forces also have a great responsibility,” the secretary general said. “It is time to end their careers of violence. The world is watching them. This is their opportunity to side with the Libyan people and choose the right side of history.”
NATO will monitor military units and key facilities, Rasmussen said, and continue to protect the people of Libya.
“It is for the international community to assist them, with the United Nations … playing a leading role,” he said. “NATO wants the Libyan people to be able to decide their future in freedom and in peace. Today, they can start building that future.”