The White House ratcheted up its pressure on Libya today, blasting Muammar el-Qaddafi as “delusional” and “unfit” and pushing for the longtime strongman to choose exile over continued repression of his people.
The president discussed the latest developments in the ongoing crisis at the White House with United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice.
Citing the sanctions imposed on the ruling regime by the U.N., Rice said Qaddafi now has a choice.
“These sanctions and accountability mechanisms should make all members of the Libyan regime think about the choice they have before them,” she said. “Violate human rights and be held accountable or stop the violence and respect the Libyan people’s call for change.”
“There is no escaping that critical choice.”
Rice did not mince words when told some of the comments that the Libyan leader made in an interview in which he said his people love him.
“It sounds just frankly delusional,” she said. “And when he can laugh in talking to American and international journalists while he is slaughtering his own people, it only underscores how unfit he is to lead and how disconnected he is from reality.”
“It makes all the more important the urgent steps we have taken,” she added, pledging that “we are going to continue to keep the pressure on.”
Rice praised the sanctions adopted with uncharacteristic speed by the U.N., calling them “a tough and binding set of sanctions aimed at stopping the Libyan regime from killing its own people.” And she said the Security Council “has not finished” in dealing with Libyan atrocities.
“Now is the time for Col. Qaddafi to step aside, prevent further bloodshed and to allow the Libyan people to have a government that is responsive to their aspirations.”
Asked if the United States is ready to give military aid to the rebels, Rice was cautious. “It is unclear at this point who will emerge as the critical opposition elements. And we await to see how the opposition will coalesce. And in that context, it is premature to talk about any kind of military assistance.”
She also challenged assertions that the president has been slow to speak out on the situation. “I think we have been very, very clear about what is right and what is moral in this situation and what has been unacceptable and inexcusable violence.”
Rice seemed to rule out any oil embargo against Libya, saying, “We have not had any active discussion in New York on oil.”