Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton reiterated Sunday that Libyan leader Muammar el-Qaddafi must step down, saying the United States “supports the aspirations and rights of the Libyan people.”
“They are clearly sending as strong a message as they are capable of doing that it is time for Qaddafi to go,” she said. “We think he must go as soon as possible without further bloodshed and violence.”
Clinton spoke to reporters before departing for the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland, where she is set to discuss with other countries how to respond to the crisis in Libya.
The New York Times reported Sunday that rebels had begun tightening their grip on the areas around the capital Tripoli, where Qaddafi remains. While those battles ensue, a new government began to take shape in the eastern part of the country, in Benghazi, where opposition forces nominated former justice minister Mustafa Mohamed Abd al-Jalil to lead an interim government, the Times reports.
Clinton said the American government will be “ready and prepared to offer any kind of assistance that anyone wishes to have from the United States,” including for the emerging new government in Benghazi.
Earlier Sunday, the administration took criticism for not speaking out against the Qaddafi regime earlier and more forcefully.
“I understand why the administration hesitated at the beginning because of the concern about American personnel at the embassy, but frankly, I wish we had spoken out much more clearly and early against the Qaddafi regime,” Sen. Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., said this morning on CNN’s State of the Union.
Lieberman said the United States needed to consider imposing a no-fly zone above Libya and providing weapons to the opposition group.
“The fact is now is the time for action, not just statements,” he said.
In an interview for ABC’s This Week, Qaddafi’s son Saif al-Islam el-Qaddafi struck a defiant tone, saying he and his father have no plans to leave.
“Listen, nobody is leaving this country. We live here, we die here," he told host Christiane Amanpour. “This is our country. The Libyans are our people. And for myself, I believe I am doing the right thing.”
Qaddafi’s remarks come amid widespread reports of violent battles between opposition groups and the government, which retains control of the nation’s capital, Tripoli. The dictator’s son rejected calls from President Obama to step down amid the chaos.
"It's not an American business, that's No. 1," he said. "Second, do they think this is a solution? Of course not."