U.S. President Barack Obama says Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi’s camp knows his reign is reaching its end, as the international community steps up pressure on his government.
In a television interview Tuesday, President Obama said the “noose has tightened” around Mr. Gadhafi, and that those around him are starting to recognize “their days are numbered.” Mr. Obama said the international community now needs to increase the diplomatic pressure so that the Libyan leader decides to leave.
International forces have been pounding pro-Gadhafi forces with airstrikes for more than a week to enforce a United Nations-authorized no-fly zone. World powers have also implemented financial sanctions against the Libyan government.
At a meeting in London Tuesday, more than 40 countries and international organizations agreed that Mr. Gadhafi must step down, as they intensified talks with opposition forces for a political transition in the North African country.
Although regime change is not a stated aim of the U.N. Security Council resolution, dozens of nations agreed that Mr. Gadhafi had lost legitimacy and would have to give up power.
Representatives at the London conference also agreed to protect civilians and provide humanitarian aid to Libya. Officials said they would also help opposition leaders form an interim government and set up a contact group to map out Libya’s future. The group’s first meeting will take place in Qatar.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.N. resolution authorizing the allied air campaign would allow for nations to legally arm the rebels, although no decision has been made to do so. French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said Paris is ready to discuss supplying military aid to anti-Gadhafi forces.
Clinton, Juppe and British Foreign Secretary William Hague met with a senior Libyan opposition leader at the conference Tuesday, while the rebel Interim National Council released a document outlining its aspirations for a democratic Libya.
The U.S. and France were also sending diplomats to the rebel stronghold of Benghazi to bolster ties with opposition leaders. U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said he also would dispatch an envoy to Libya in the coming days.
A number of Arab states participated in the London meeting, as well as representatives of the Arab League, the U.N. and NATO.
Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem al-Thani, whose country has joined the patrols over Libya, urged Mr. Gadhafi to leave the country and avoid further bloodshed. He said the issue of selling arms to the opposition could be addressed later if the aerial campaign fails to protect Libyan civilians.
Meanwhile, Italy’s foreign minister said negotiations on securing the Libyan leader’s exit were being conducted with “absolute discretion.” Earlier, Franco Frattini said he hoped an African country would offer Mr. Gadhafi exile. voa