British Defense Minister: Libyan Leader Gadhafi Should Go

BY Larisa Epatko  April 26, 2011 at 4:45 PM EDT


UK Secretary of State for Defense Liam Fox says good-bye to U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates after a meeting at the Pentagon. (Cherie Cullen/Defense Department)

British Secretary of State for Defense Liam Fox said in an interview with the PBS NewsHour Tuesday that opponents of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi had gained ground in recent days with the help of U.S. drones and NATO airstrikes, and that Gadhafi could “end all this tomorrow” by recognizing he should go.

Fox discussed the British and U.S. role in the conflict in an interview with Margaret Warner that airs Tuesday.

The opposition has gained ground by pushing Gadhafi forces back from the city of Misrata and other areas, said Fox. With the use of U.S. predators, NATO warplanes have been able to more quickly target ammunition piles and fuel supplies, he said.

“Bit by bit, we’re tightening the noose around the regime’s neck.”

When asked if he considered the conflict in a stalemate, Fox said he didn’t see it that way with the momentum favoring the opposition in the past few days.

Monday’s strike on Gadhafi’s compound in Tripoli, which NATO said was not an assassination attempt, was meant more to increase pressure on Gadhafi, said Fox.

From Gadhafi’s point of view, things are happening at arm’s length, Fox said. “What we’ve seen in recent days: attacks on Tripoli to increase the psychological pressure, apart from anything else, on Gadhafi, to make him realize that this is something that he is involved in,” Fox said.

He said the British advisers being sent to Libya are tasked with helping the opposition with communications and logistics and getting better use out of the supplies they have.

“We’re not there to take a side of one group in the population against the regime. Our job is to take the side of the civilians,” he said. “That’s what the U.N. gave the international community a mandate to do.”

Fox said Gadhafi could end the conflict sooner rather than later. “He can end all this tomorrow by recognizing he is isolated in his country; he is unloved by his people; he’s a liability to them; he has no friends in the international community; he is ostracized by the United Nations. The best thing is to call it a day and go.”

Fox and British chief of defense staff Sir David Richards met earlier in the day in Washington with U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates.

When asked at the press briefing afterward about the difference in response to Libya and Syria, Fox said, “There are limitations to what we can do in a world that has a historic amount of instability. We can’t do everything all the time and we have to recognize that there are practical limitations to what our countries can do.”

Resource: We’ve gathered all of our coverage of the uprisings in North Africa and the Middle East in this timeline.

View the full interview with Fox on Tuesday’s NewsHour. See all of our World coverage and follow us on Twitter.