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Military Action in Libya About Humanitarian Response, U.S. Says
The U.S. role in the enforcement of United Nations Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973 is limited to the goal of ending the attacks by forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Qadhafi upon the Libyan people and is in response to the humanitarian
The U.S. role in the enforcement of United Nations Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973 is limited to the goal of ending the attacks by forces loyal to Colonel Muammar Qadhafi upon the Libyan people and is in response to the humanitarian crisis Qadhafi's actions were causing.

Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Bruce Wharton told African reporters in a March 25 teleconference that the U.N. measures are "not about regime change," and it is up to the Libyan people to decide who their leaders should be.
But that "is a decision that they can only take in an environment that is free of violence and political oppression," he said.

Wharton urged all who care about the welfare of the Libyan people to "stand up and call with other members of the international community for Muammar Qadhafi to stop assaults on his own citizens and to give the people of Libya the chance to … choose their own future in the security and peace that they deserve."

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton announced March 24 that the United States is transferring command and control of the U.N.-mandated no-fly zone to NATO (the North Atlantic Treaty Organization), and Wharton said the U.S. role in leading the effort to establish a no-fly zone "is coming to an end now."

But he said the U.S. decision to participate was motivated by humanitarian interests as Qadhafi's military forces used their weaponry against Libyan civilians, as well as the Arab League's "unprecedented request" that the international community intervene, which was ultimately backed by the U.N. resolutions.

"We've got to remember where we've come from and the success that we've seen so far. The alternative to the collective action that we've begun to take was to watch a humanitarian catastrophe unfold and ignore the explicit calls from the Arab League.

We simply weren't prepared to do that, and neither were our partners," Wharton said.
In a March 24 editorial, Rwandan President Paul Kagame recalled the 1994 government-backed slaughter of 1 million Rwandans and said he was encouraged that the international community's intervention in Libya shows that it has appeared to have learned the lessons of its earlier failure to intervene in Rwanda.

"From what the world saw on the sidelines of this conflict, had this action not been taken, the bombardment of that country's towns and cities would have continued, Benghazi most likely would have borne the brunt of a furious administration and hundreds of thousands of lives could well have been lost," he said.

Expressing Rwanda's support for the intervention, Kagame said, "This is the right thing to do, and this view is backed with the authority of having witnessed and suffered the terrible consequences of international inaction."

Wharton was asked why the United States has joined the international community in taking military action to protect Libyan civilians but is not using similar means to protect the people of Côte d'Ivoire, who have been attacked by forces loyal to President Laurent Gbagbo.

"Each conflict is complex and requires its own analysis and actions," he said, and the U.S. role will be different in each case. With Libya, there was "a very clear call for the sort of action that we have now taken" from the Arab League and the United Nations.

He said that in Côte d'Ivoire, the Obama administration is supporting African efforts to achieve a peaceful transition from Gbagbo to his fairly elected successor, Alassane Ouattara. It is also helping and equipping the U.N. peacekeeping mission in the country, which has been protecting civilians and has provided $29 million in humanitarian assistance for refugees and people who have been displaced internally.

Additionally, the United States has imposed restrictions and financial sanctions against Gbagbo and other regime members and has worked to isolate them diplomatically.

"Our response is different in Côte d'Ivoire than it is in Libya because the situations are different and because the international call for assistance has been different in those two cases," Wharton said.
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