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President Obama Defends Use of Force Against Gadhafi, Libya Announces Cease Fire After U.N. Vote

2:40 p.m. ET | President Obama delivered remarks Friday to address the crisis in Libya and the U.N. Security Council’s resolution, defending the use of military force and calling on Gadhafi to back down.

“Moammar Gadhafi clearly lost the confidence of his own people and the legitimacy to lead. Instead of respecting the rights of his own people, Gadhafi chose the path of brutal suppression,” the president said.

“He launched a military campaign against his own people. There should be no doubt about his intentions because he himself has made them clear,” Mr. Obama said, adding that with regard to Benghazi, Gadhafi “threatened, and I quote, ‘we will have no mercy and no pity.'”

“Left unchecked, we have every reason to believe Gadhafi would commit atrocities against his own people…the entire region could be destabilized,” he said. In response, the international community issued sanctions, but Gadhafi continued his campaign against the opposition.

“All attacks against civilians must stop,” Mr. Obama said. “These terms are not negotiable…[the U.N.] resolution will be enforced through military action.”

Addressing concerns of an already-stretched military, with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan, the president said he had “no doubt” the military was capable of handling the mission but that the U.S. would not deploy ground troops to Libya. “It is not an action we will pursue alone,” he said, emphasizing on several occasions the involvement of the international community, particularly Britain and France.

“Our goal is focused, our cause is just, and our coalition is strong,” he said.

The president was also careful to point out that the U.S. and its allies would provide assistance but that it would be driven by opposition groups within the country. “This is just one more chapter in the change” sweeping the Arab world, he said. “Ultimately it will be driven by the people of the Arab world. It is their right and their responsibility to determine their own destiny.”

9:06 a.m. ET | Libya’s foreign minister Moussa Koussa said Friday that the government of Moammar Gadhafi is suspending military operations after the U.N. Security Council approved a no-fly zone on Thursday evening. The announcement came after especially intense fighting in the city of Misrata and followed threats by Gadhagi that his forces would show “no mercy” to those who aligned themselves with rebels in the stronghold of Benghazi.

News of the no-fly zone was met with celebration by the rebels, who have been frustrated for weeks by the lack of international backing in the face of superior air and firepower in the hands of the government.

The Security Council resolution allowed for “all necessary measures” to protect Libyan citizens, leaving the door open for military action. Britain and France had led the charge for a no-fly zone; Russia, China and Germany abstained from the vote.

Meantime, the New York Times said that the Libyan government had assured them that four of its journalists would be released. The four — Anthony Shadid, the paper’s Beirut bureau chief, photographers Lynsey Addario and Tyler Hicks, and Stephen Farrell, who was held by the Taliban in 2009 before being rescued by British commandos — had been missing since Tuesday. Gadhafi’s son, Seif al-Islam el-Qaddafi, said they had entered the country illegally through the eastern border with Egypt and were detained by government troops.

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