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Rice: ‘Swift’ Consequences for Gadhafi if Attacks on Civilians Continue

March 18, 2011 at 6:11 PM EST
Ray Suarez talks with United Nations Ambassador Susan Rice about the U.N. Security Council's vote on Thursday authorizing no-fly zones and "all necessary means" to halt attacks against opposition forces by Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's troops.
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RAY SUAREZ: Now to our newsmaker interview with Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. I talked with her earlier this evening from the State Department.

Amsbassador, welcome.

Has the new resolution come in time to save the Libyan opposition? Has the Gadhafi army already won the battle on the ground?

U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE UNITED NATIONS SUSAN RICE: Well, Ray, the resolution passed yesterday by the Security Council was swift and very strong.

And it makes clear that Gadhafi must immediately cease fire and halt any attacks on civilians. President Obama this afternoon issued a very clear ultimatum, consistent with that resolution, that there must be an immediate cease-fire, immediate halt to the violence, that the march on Benghazi must cease in place, and that Gadhafi must pull his forces out of three key Libyan towns which are now under siege.

Those steps need to happen immediately. And, if they don’t, the president was very clear that there will be consequences swiftly, and those consequences will include military action.

RAY SUAREZ: As you say, the president declared that all attacks on civilians must stop. But do you read the word “civilians” to include those who have taken up arms against the government? Are they civilians or combatants?

SUSAN RICE: Well, they’re — we’re about the business of protecting civilians. And there are civilians at extraordinary risk, 700,000 of them in the city of Benghazi.

And civilians have been the victims towns in Misrata and Zawiyah and Ajdabiya, where Gadhafi forces continue to attack. So, that is the focus, that is the purpose of the Council resolution passed yesterday. And that’s, as the president said today, what we will be implementing.

RAY SUAREZ: So, what kind of military force is the United States and its partners prepared to use in Libya?

SUSAN RICE: Well, the United States, acting in a broad coalition that includes Arab states, very importantly, key European partners, Canada, and others, will take steps to implement both the broad requirement to protect civilians and to impose a no-fly zone. Now, I’m not going to get into all of the military means at our disposal for implementing the protection of civilians, but obviously, it’s broad. And we have many options at our disposal.

RAY SUAREZ: Can the resolution be read to allow attacks against leaders of the Libyan government, even Moammar Gadhafi himself?

SUSAN RICE: Ray, no, I don’t believe that’s the purpose of the resolution.

The resolution is clear: that the aim is to protect civilians, to hold those who have perpetrated atrocities, including Gadhafi, accountable through legal means, including a referral to the International Criminal Court, and then to increase the pressure on Gadhafi by freezing assets, banning travel, banning all flights in and out of Libya by any Libyan-owned aircraft, action to enforce the arms embargo on the high seas or on land or in the air.

So, it is a very strong and sweeping resolution, the aim of which is to protect civilians, to increase the pressure on Gadhafi, and to hold him and others accountable. The president said very clearly again today that we stand with the Libyan people in support of their aspirations for universal human rights and democracy.

But this resolution and the use of force is for the purpose of protection of civilians.

RAY SUAREZ: After the resolution came out, the Libyan government announced it had ceased all military activities inside the country.

What’s the intelligence reading — reaching the State Department say? Are we any wiser about what’s actually going on, on the ground today?

SUSAN RICE: Well, we don’t believe that the military action has stopped since that announcement. Today was another day in which Misrata was under attack, and hence the necessity and the purpose of the president’s ultimatum.

RAY SUAREZ: Is it the view of the United States, Ambassador, that there’s no other way for this thing to end but with Moammar Gadhafi no longer in charge of Libya?

SUSAN RICE: Well, the president has been very clear that, in the U.S. view, and, indeed, in the view of most states in the world that any legitimacy Gadhafi may have ever had to rule has long since been lost once he started these wanton attacks on his own people.

And that remains U.S. policy. But the purpose of the military action, as the president said today, is defined and specific. And that is to protect civilians and civilian-populated area.

RAY SUAREZ: Ambassador Susan Rice, joining us from the State Department, thanks for talking with us.

SUSAN RICE: Good to be with you, Ray.