Obama: Gadhafi Will ‘Ultimately Step Down'; Rebels Turned Back at Key Cities

BY News Desk  March 30, 2011 at 3:24 PM EDT

5:20 p.m. ET | According to Britain’s government, Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa has traveled to London with the intention of abandoning his post.

“We are discussing this with him and we will release further detail in due course,” the statement said.

4:30 p.m. ET | Government forces are also shelling the oil port of Brega, pushing further eastward.

Libyan rebels flee from Ras Laniuf to Uqayla 12 miles east of Ras Lanouf, on March 30, 2011, as loyalist forces overran the Libyan key oil town. (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)
Libyan rebels flee from Ras Laniuf to Uqayla 12 miles east of Ras Lanouf, on March 30, 2011, as loyalist forces overran the Libyan key oil town. (MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images)

9 a.m. ET | In yet another reversal in the back-and-forth battle between forces loyal to Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and opposition militias, government tanks shelled the oil port city of Ras Lanouf, forcing rebels back at a city they had retaken days earlier. The rebels had advanced toward Gadhafi’s hometown of Sirte, another westward step toward the capital of Tripoli, before being pushed back. International air strikes continued but have been unable to give the rebels an advantage over Gadhafi’s forces, which have superior firepower and equipment.

Meantime, the United State and France said they will send envoys to the eastern city of Benghazi, the de facto opposition headquarters, to meet with the governing council.

Coalition nations met for talks in London, where they agreed to coordinate talks with governments of Arab nations on how to handle the situation should Gadhafi leave office. Thus far, Gadhafi has condemned the air strikes and insisted he will continue his 41-year rule in Libya. Though many of the nations at those talks have called on Gadhafi to go, there have been no further agreements beyond air strikes.

Gaddafi has lost the legitimacy to lead, so we believe he must go,” said Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. “We’re working with the international community to try to achieve that outcome.”

President Obama has not ruled out arming the rebels but was careful to emphasize that such a move is not imminent. The president told NBC News that “Gadhafi’s been greatly weakened” and that he will “ultimately step down.”

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While the United States and European allies have moved to freeze Gadhafi’s financial assets, most have largely avoided the topic of arming the rebels. Russia, which holds a permanent seat on the U.N. Security Council, opposes such a move.

Qatar has joined NATO forces in supplying jets in support of the no-fly zone and has diplomatically recognized the opposition as the legitimate government. Though the Arab League supported the mandate, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are the only ones participating militarily.