US reaching out to Libyan opposition: Clinton

Sunday, February 27, 2011

WASHINGTON - US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said the US was reaching out to Libya’s opposition as she renewed calls for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to step down.

The US government had been “reaching out to many different Libyans who are attempting to organize in the east and as the revolution moves westward there as well”, Clinton said Sunday before flying off to a meeting of the Human Rights Council in Geneva Monday.

Libya’s opposition, which controls much of eastern Libya and has been encroaching on Tripoli in the west, has been preparing for the transition even as Gaddafi remains defiantly in power.

Former justice minister Mustafa Abdel Jalil Saturday said he had set up a transitional government, but a separate group in eastern Benghazi Sunday announced the creation of a Libyan National Council.

Clinton did not back any specific group, telling reporters: “I think its way too soon to tell how this is going to play out, but were going to be ready and prepared to offer any kind of assistance that anyone wishes to have from the United States.”

President Barack Obama, in a phone call Saturday with German Chancellor Angela Merkel, for the first time called for Gaddafi to step down, and Clinton reinforced the message.

Clinton said the anti-government forces were “clearly sending as strong a message as they are capable of doing that it is time for Gaddafi to go. We think he must go as soon as possible without further bloodshed and violence.”

The US Friday levied financial sanctions on Libya and halted all military contacts. The Washington Post Sunday reported sanctions were the first in a series of steps, and that the US was also preparing possible military options.

Those options could include imposing a no-fly zone on Libya to prevent Gaddafi’s regime from using air strikes against anti-government protesters. But the Post reported doubts within the government over whether such a move could gain international support.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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