Clinton Urges Quick Action to Prevent More Civilian Casualties in Libya

By Dschabner

Mar 19, 2011 1:57pm

ABC News' Kirit Radia reports:

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the international community must take swift action in Libya to prevent further civilian casualties.

“We have every reason to fear that left unchecked, Col. Gadhafi will commit unspeakable atrocities,” she told reporters in Paris, where she joined other world leaders gathered to coordinate their response to the Libyan leader’s advance against the rebel stronghold in the eastern city of Benghazi.

Reports on the ground indicate Gadhafi forces have shown little regard for civilian casualties.

“We all recognize that further delay will only put more civilians at risk,” she said.

Clinton spoke just minutes before the French government announced one of its fighters had fired on a Libyan military vehicle.

She said the United States will participate in enforcing the resolution, but will play a supporting role.

“Let me be very clear about the position of the United States. We will support an international coalition as it takes all necessary measures to enforce the terms of Resolution 1973,” she said. "As you may know, French planes are already in the skies above Benghazi. Now America has unique capacities and we will bring them to bear to help our European and Canadian allies and Arab partners stop further violence against civilians, including the effective implementation of a no fly zone."

She reiterated that the United States will not deploy ground forces, but stressed “there should be no mistaking our commitment to this effort.”

Secretary Clinton called on Gadhafi’s forces to halt their advance immediately.

“The Gadhafi forces face unambiguous terms. A ceasefire must be implemented immediately. That means all attacks against civilians must stop. Troops must stop advancing on Benghazi and pull back from Ajdabiya, Misrata, and Zawiyah,” she said.

And she said steps must be taken to improve the humanitarian situation.

“Water, electricity and gas supplies must be turned on to all areas. Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya,” she said.

Clinton noted that pro-Gadhafi forces have continued their attacks, despite claims by the government that they will adhere to an immediate ceasefire.

“There has been some talk from Tripoli of a ceasefire, but the reality on the ground tells a very different story. Col. Gadhafi continues to defy the world. His attacks on civilians go on,” she said.

“Today we have been monitoring the troubling reports of fighting around and within Benghazi itself,” she added.

Clinton refused to reveal any operational details about what specific actions will be taken or when they will happen. She also declined to reveal the role Arab countries will play, but said she expects them to take more action than just offering support.

Asked to clarify whether the goal is to remove Gadhafi or just protect civilians, Clinton said it was to protect civilians.

She said the United States was not prepared to recognize the Benghazi-based opposition, as France has, but said the United States is in nearly “almost hourly” contact with several individuals.

– Kirit Radia

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