Obama Defends Libya Action, Cites Potential Humanitarian Crisis

Mar 21, 2011 5:24pm

ABC News' David Kerley and Jon Garcia report:

For the first time since launching attacks against Libyan targets, President Obama defended his actions to reporters and said the allies needed to act quickly to avoid atrocities. He believes U.S. military attacks will be limited to a few more days, not weeks.

“When the entire international community almost unanimously says that there is a potential humanitarian crisis about to take place,” Mr. Obama told reporters in Chile, “we can't simply stand by with empty words; we have to take some sort of action.”

The President reiterated that the U.S. has “unique capabilities” to take out Libya’s air defenses and will do so before handing control for a “no-fly zone” to the allies.

During a news conference with the Chilean President, Mr. Obama for the first time sought to separate the military action from his call for Moamar Ghadhafi to give up power. Mr. Obama says the military action now underway is only aimed at enforcing a United Nations resolution, “and we are going to make sure that we stick to that mandate.” Mr. Obama then added, “I also have stated that it is U.S. policy that Gadhafi needs to go.”

It was lunch time Saturday in Brazil that the President gave the final orders for American forces to attack Libyan air defenses. Mr. Obama says allies were working on a short time frame. “We got in there quickly so that whatever advances were being made on Benghazi (the eastern rebel stronghold) could be halted and we could send a clear message to Gadhafi that he needed to start pulling his troops back,” the President said.

The President said NATO will be involved when the transition is made to the allies.

- Kerley and Garcia

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