The Cable

Full text of President Obama's remarks on Libya

Good afternoon, everybody. I just completed a call with my National Security Council on the situation in Libya. And earlier today, I spoke to Prime Minister Cameron about the extraordinary events taking place there. The situation is still very fluid. There remains a degree of uncertainty, and there are still regime elements who pose a threat.

But this much is clear: The Gadhafi regime is coming to an end, and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people.

In just six months, the 42-year reign of Moammar Gadhafi has unraveled. Earlier this year, we were inspired by the peaceful protests that broke out across Libya. This basic and joyful longing for human freedom echoed the voices that we had heard all across the region, from Tunis to Cairo.

In the face of these protests, the Gadhafi regime responded with brutal crackdowns. Civilians were murdered in the streets. A campaign of violence was launched against the Libyan people. Gadhafi threatened to hunt peaceful protesters down like rats. As his forces advanced across the country, there existed the potential for wholesale massacres of innocent civilians.

In the face of this aggression, the international community took action. The United States helped shape a U.N. Security Council resolution that mandated the protection of Libyan civilians. An unprecedented coalition was formed that included the United States, our NATO partners and Arab nations. And in March, the international community launched a military operation to save lives and stop Gadhafi's forces in their tracks.

In the early days of this intervention, the United States provided the bulk of the fire power, and then our friends and allies stepped forward. The Transitional National Council established itself as a credible representative of the Libyan people. And the United States, together with our European allies and friends across the region, recognized the TNC as the legitimate governing authority in Libya.

Gadhafi was cut off from arms and cash, and his forces were steadily degraded. From Benghazi to Misurata to the western mountains, the Libyan opposition courageously confronted the regime, and the tide turned in their favor.

Over the last several days, the situation in Libya has reached a tipping point, as the opposition increased its coordination from east to west, took town after town, and the people of -- of Tripoli rose up to claim their freedom. For over four decades, the Libyan people had lived under the rule of a tyrant who denied them their most basic human rights. Now, the celebrations that we've seen in the streets of Libya shows that the pursuit of human dignity is far stronger than any dictator.

I want to emphasize that this is not over yet. As the regime collapses, there's still fierce fighting in some areas, and we have reports of regime elements threatening to continue fighting. Although it's clear that Gadhafi's rule is over, he still has the opportunity to reduce further bloodshed by explicitly relinquishing power to the people of Libya and calling for those forces that continue to fight to lay down their arms for the sake of Libya.

As we move forward from this pivotal phase, the opposition should continue to take important steps to bring about a transition that is peaceful, inclusive and just. That the leadership of the TNC has made clear the rights of all Libyans must be respected. True justice will not come from reprisals and violence; it will come from reconciliation and a Libya that allows its citizens to determine their own destiny.

In that effort, the United States will be a friend and a partner. We will join with allies and partners to continue the work of safeguarding the people of Libya. As remaining regime elements menace parts of the country, I've directed my team to be in close contact with NATO as well as the United Nations to determine other steps that we can take to deal with the humanitarian impact. We're working to ensure that critical supplies reach those in need, particularly those who've been wounded.

Secretary Clinton spoke today with her counterparts from leading nations of the coalition on all these matters, and I've directed Ambassador Susan Rice to request that the U.N. secretary-general use next month's General Assembly to support this important transition.

For many months, the TNC has been working with the international community to prepare for a post-Gadhafi Libya. As those efforts proceed, our diplomats will work with the TNC as they ensure that the institutions of the Libyan state are protected, and we will support them with the assets of the Gadhafi regime that were frozen earlier this year. Above all, we will call for an inclusive transition that leads to a democratic Libya.

As we move forward, we should also recognize the extraordinary work that has already been done. To the American people, these events have particular resonance. Gadhafi's regime has murdered scores of American citizens in acts of terror in the past.

Today, we remember the lives of those who were taken in those acts of terror and stand in solidarity with their families.

We also pay tribute to Admiral Sam Locklear and all of the men and women in uniform who have saved so many lives over the last several months, including our brave pilots. They've executed their mission with skill and extraordinary bravery, and all of this was done without putting a single U.S. troop on the ground.

To our friends and allies, the Libyan intervention demonstrates what the international community can achieve when we stand together as one. Although the efforts in Libya are not yet over, NATO has once more proven that it is the most capable alliance in the world and that its strength comes from both its firepower and the power of our democratic ideals.

And the Arab members of our coalition have stepped up and shown what can be achieved when we act together as equal partners. Their actions sent a powerful message about the unity of our effort and our support for the future of Libya.

Finally, the Libyan people: Your courage and character have been unbreakable in the face of the tyrant. An ocean divides us, but we are joined in the basic human longing for freedom, for justice and for dignity. Your revolution is your own, and your sacrifices have been extraordinary. Now, the Libya that you deserve is within your reach. Going forward, we will stay in close coordination with the TNC to support that outcome. And though there will be huge challenges ahead, the extraordinary events in Libya remind us that fear can give way to hope, and that the power of people striving for freedom can bring about a brighter day.

Thank you very much.

The Cable

Romney to new Libya government: Hand over the Lockerbie bomber

GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney said on Monday that the first order of business for the new Libya government, after it secures control over the country, should be to hand over the man responsible for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland in 1988.

"The world is about to be rid of Muammar al-Qaddafi, the brutal tyrant who terrorized the Libyan people. It is my hope that Libya will now move toward a representative form of government that supports freedom, human rights, and the rule of law. As a first step, I call on this new government to arrest and extradite the mastermind behind the bombing of Pan Am 103, Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi, so justice can finally be done," Romney said in a statement Monday.

Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence officer and the former head of security for Libyan Arab Airlines, was convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison in Scotland in 2001. Qaddafi agreed to pay the Lockerbie victims about $2.7 billion in 2002 as part of a deal that saw Libya's gradual reintegration into the world community, and led to Qaddafi's regime being taken off the State Department's list of state sponsors of terrorism.

Megrahi was released under compassionate grounds in 2009, under the belief he was dying of cancer, with only months left to live. He is reportedly still alive. The Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on Megrahi in September 2010 to investigate how the decision to release Megrahi was made, but no British officials agreed to testify.

Last month, Megrahi was spotted on video at a pro-Qaddafi rally in Tripoli.

It's not only Romney who has lamented the decision to release Megrahi, and called on the new Libyan government to transfer him back to international custody.

"The families of the victims of Pan Am Flight 103 have suffered so much already, and the images of Megrahi at a pro-Qaddafi rally in Libya only add salt to their wounds," said Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) on July 27. "Parading one terrorist out to support another is an affront to justice and further affirmation that Megrahi was released from prison on false pretenses. We will continue to fight for justice on behalf of the Pan Am 103 families."

In June, Lautenberg and Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) called on Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Attorney General Eric Holder to put the Megrahi issue at the top of the U.S. agenda when dealing with a new Libya government.

"While we recognize there are many critical foreign policy decisions to be made with regard to Libya at this extraordinary time, we ask that justice for the Lockerbie victims and their families remain a top priority and not be overlooked," they wrote.

Romney has been a critic of the Obama administration's approach to Libya, saying that the United States should lead on such international issues rather than playing second fiddle to European countries.

"America has been feared sometimes, has been respected, but today, that America is seen as being weak. We're following the French into Libya," he said in March. "I appreciate the fact that others are participating in this effort, but I think we look to America to be the leader of the world."

Romney supported the military intervention in Libya but criticized Obama for relying too much on multilateral organizations for legitimacy.

"[Obama] calls for the removal of Moammar Gadhafi but then conditions our action on the directions we get from the Arab League and United Nations," Romney said in March. "He's tentative, indecisive, timid and nuanced."

In July, when the war appeared to be at a stalemate, Romney further criticized Obama for not explaining the endgame in Libya and for exceeding the mandate provided by U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.

"We approved the humanitarian mission as a people," he said. "We did not approve an expanded and muddled mission, which is what we see."

UPDATE: Gov. Rick Perry's campaign issued this statement on today's Libya news:

The crumbling of Muammar Ghadafi's reign, a violent, repressive dictatorship with a history of terrorism, is cause for cautious celebration. The lasting impact of events in Libya will depend on ensuring rebel factions form a unified, civil government that guarantees personal freedoms, and builds a new relationship with the West where we are allies instead of adversaries.

Former Gov. John Huntsman's campaign sent out the following:

The impending fall of Colonel Gaddafi is one chapter in the developing story of a nation in turmoil. Gaddafi has been a longtime opponent of freedom, and I am hopeful -- as the whole world should be -- that his defeat is a step toward openness, democracy and human rights for a people who greatly deserve it.

UPDATE #2: Menendez called for Megrahi to be expedited to the U.S. in a Monday afternoon statement sent to The Cable.

The Qaddafi reign of terror is ending and the TNC, as the legitmate government of Libya, must move quickly to embrace democratic reform.  To that end the, TNC should extradite al-Megrahi to the United States to answer for the bombing of Pan Am flight 103.  There would be no better signal to the world that a new Libya believes in justice and has every intention to adhere to international law.