NATO to take command of military operations in Libya on Wednesday

Washington: NATO will take command of the military operations currently underway in Libya on Wednesday, US President Barack Obama has said.

In his address to the nation on his policy on Libya, Obama yesterday said the most effective alliance, NATO, has taken command of the enforcement of the arms embargo and no-fly zone.

"Last night NATO decided to take on the additional responsibility of protecting Libyan civilians. This transfer from the United States to NATO will take place on Wednesday," he said, adding that going forward, the lead in enforcing the no-fly zone and protecting civilians on the ground will transition to US allies and partners.

"I am fully confident that our coalition will keep the pressure on Gaddafi`s remaining forces. In that effort, the US will play a supporting role, including intelligence, logistical support, search and rescue assistance, and capabilities to jam regime communications," he said.

Because of this transition to a broader NATO-based coalition, the risk and cost of this operation to our military and to American taxpayers will be reduced significantly, Obama noted.

"So for those who doubted our capacity to carry out this operation, I want to be clear: the United States of America has done what we said we would do," he said.

"That`s not to say that our work is complete. In addition to our NATO responsibilities, we will work with the international community to provide assistance to the people of Libya, who need food for the hungry and medical care for the wounded. We will safeguard the more than USD 33 billion that was frozen from the Gaddafi regime so that it`s available to rebuild Libya. After all, this money doesn`t belong to Gaddafi or to us; it belongs to the Libyan people, and we`ll make sure they receive it," Obama said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is travelling to London where she will meet with the Libyan opposition and consult with more than thirty nations, he said, adding that these discussions will focus on what kind of political effort is necessary to pressure Gaddafi, while also supporting a transition to the future that the Libyan people deserve.

"Because while our military mission is narrowly focused on saving lives, we continue to pursue the broader goal of a Libya that belongs not to a dictator, but to its people. Now, despite the success of our efforts over the past week, I know that some Americans continue to have questions about our efforts in Libya. Gaddafi has not yet stepped down from power, and until he does, Libya will remain dangerous," he said.

"Moreover, even after Gaddafi does leave power, 40 years of tyranny has left Libya fractured and without strong civil institutions. The transition to a legitimate government that is responsive to the Libyan people will be a difficult task. And while the US will do our part to help, it will be a task for the international community and, more importantly, a task for the Libyan people themselves," Obama said.

"In fact, much of the debate in Washington has put forward a false choice when it comes to Libya. On the one hand, some question why America should intervene at all, even in limited ways, in this distant land. They argue that there are many places in the world where innocent civilians face brutal violence at the hands of their government, and America should not be expected to police the world, particularly when we have so many pressing needs here at home," Obama said.

"It`s true that America cannot use our military wherever repression occurs. And given the costs and risks of intervention, we must always measure our interests against the need for action. But that cannot be an argument for never acting on behalf of what`s right," he said.

"In this particular country — Libya — at this particular moment, we were faced with the prospect of violence on a horrific scale. We had a unique ability to stop that violence: an international mandate for action, a broad coalition prepared to join us, the support of Arab countries, and a plea for help from the Libyan people themselves. We also had the ability to stop Gaddafi`s forces in their tracks without putting American troops on the ground," Obama said.

"To brush aside America`s responsibility as a leader, and more profoundly our responsibilities to our fellow human beings under such circumstances, would have been a betrayal of who we are. Some nations may be able to turn a blind eye to atrocities in other countries. The United States of America is different. And as president, I refused to wait for the images of slaughter and mass graves before taking action," he asserted.