U.S. sticks to guns on ousting Libya's Gaddafi

The United States remains firm that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi must give up his 41-year rule, the State Department said on Sunday, after France's defense minister advocated a compromise with Libyan rebels.

"The Libyan people will be the ones to decide how this transition takes place, but we stand firm in our belief that Gaddafi cannot remain in power," the department said in a written reply to a query.

French Defense Minister Gerard Longuet said in Paris earlier on Sunday it was time for Gaddafi loyalists and Libyan rebels to sit around a table to reach a political compromise because, he said, there was "no solution with force."

The rebels have demanded that Gaddafi step down before any negotiations can begin for a political transition, a notion his entourage has dismissed.

The United States will continue efforts as part of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) coalition to enforce a U.N. Security Council-authorized no-fly zone in Libya designed to protect civilians under threat of attack, the State Department said.

"Our efforts in Libya will take time, but let there be no mistake that the political, military, and economic pressure on Gaddafi continues to grow," it said.

The allies will continue to increase pressure "until the Libyan people are safe, their humanitarian needs met, and a transition of power is fully under way," the department added.

NATO warplanes have been bombing Libyan government positions since March under the U.N. mandate to protect civilians. Gaddafi has rejected any suggestion that he give up power and denounced the NATO campaign as an act of colonial aggression aimed at stealing Libya's oil.

The NATO efforts are helping to boost the pressure on Gaddafi and allowing the Libyan opposition Transitional National Council to "better operate on behalf of the Libyan people," the State Department said.

[Source: By Jim Wolf, Reuters, Washington, 10Jul11]

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