WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. President Barack Obama warned Libya's Muammar Gaddafi Friday to comply with U.N. demands for a cease-fire or face consequences that included military action.
Obama, laying out the rationale for deeper U.S. involvement in Libya's turmoil, said the United States would work with its partners to enforce U.N. demands on Libya but promised that no U.S. ground troops would be involved and that the United States would not use force beyond well-defined goals.
He said the international community's chief goal was to protect Libyan civilians and he called on Gaddafi to withdraw his forces in the eastern part of the country, where they threaten to overwhelm opposition strongholds such as Benghazi.
"All attacks against all civilians must stop," Obama said in his first public comments on the crisis since the U.N. Security Council voted on Thursday to authorize a "no-fly" zone and other steps to help rebels under attack by Gaddafi's forces.
"These terms are not subject to negotiation. If Gaddafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences," Obama said.
Obama, who faces deep misgivings among military planners and lawmakers over any Libyan engagement, said he was driven by deep concern that Gaddafi could commit atrocities if allowed to quash the rebellion, which could further destabilize the entire Middle East.partnership with key European allies as well as Arab countries.
"American leadership is essential, but that does not mean acting alone," Obama said.
"We will provide the unique capabilities that we can bring to bear to stop violence against civilians, including enabling our European allies and their partners to effectively enforce a no-fly zone," Obama said.
Obama said he was sending Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to Paris on Saturday to take part in an international meeting on the next steps.
Clinton said earlier that the immediate goal was stopping violence against civilians.
"We don't know what the final outcome will be. The first and overwhelmingly urgent action is to end the violence," Clinton told reporters.
Obama's comments came after a closed-door meeting with key lawmakers, some of whom have voiced concern the United States was lurching toward involvement in another open-ended conflict in a Muslim country amid a period of unprecedented turmoil across the Middle East.
The shift toward a tougher U.S. stance in favor of military action followed an extended internal debate within the Obama administration over how to stop Gaddafi from routing rebels fighting to end his four-decade rule.
Clinton said the United States remained convinced that any long-term solution in Libya must involve the removal of Gaddafi from power.
(Additional reporting by Steve Holland, Patricia Zengerle)
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