Obama weighing military options for Libya 

By Hayley Peterson

Libyan rebels and diplomats are now demanding that President Obama recognize Libya's transitional government, in addition to imposing a no-fly zone over the country, and arming the opposition with American weapons.

Libya's ambassadors to the United States and to the United Nations are rallying Libyan Americans a couple blocks from the White House on Friday to call on Obama to take action. "Every day that the world powers do not take [action] they give Gadhafi more time kill more Libyans," said Aly R. Abuzaakouk, director of Libya For Human and Political Development, a nonprofit that is organizing the rally.

Obama's senior foreign-policy advisers met without him in the Situation Room Wednesday to discuss potential military and humanitarian assistance to Libya, including whether to arm the rebels now battling the forces of Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi. The State Department initially determined that providing weapons was prohibited under a United Nations arms embargo, but the White House reversed that finding Wednesday, according to White House press secretary Jay Carney.

Obama's advisers also discussed establishing a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Gadhafi's fighter jets from attacking rebel positions, Carney confirmed.

"A no-fly zone is the only way to limit the supremacy of Gadhafi's militia and mercenaries," Abuzaakouk said. "We have been calling for one since Day One."

But Carney insisted that the meeting was merely a discussion, fending off speculation that Obama could be giving in to mounting pressure to intervene militarily.

"This is not a decision meeting ... we do not have a timetable [for action] here," Carney said. The meeting included Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, CIA Director Leon Panetta and Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, according to senior officials.

While Obama's advisers mull military options, Libya's ambassadors are pressuring the president to recognize the National Transitional Council as the legitimate government of Libya and to support the opposition's effort to assume political control.

Abuzaakouk said the council needs a U.S. endorsement to move forward in liberating the Libyan cities under Gadhafi's control and begin forming a democratic transitional government.

"It is the only legitimate institution in Libya that represents the aspirations of the democracy movement," he said. "This -- and a no-fly zone -- is the only way to save Libyans from the slaughter [by] Gadhafi."

Just two years ago, Obama campaigned on a military doctrine that would call the United States into action out of "moral obligation," on top of national security interests. His decisions in the Middle East are the first test of how he would apply that doctrine.

"We could be providing logistical support, setting up a no-fly zone at a relatively little cost to us," Obama said in 2008, discussing violence in Sudan's Darfur region. "But we can only do it if we can help mobilize the international community and lead."

hpeterson@washingtonexaminer.com

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Hayley Peterson

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