Obama Hails Gadhafi’s Demise, Warns Arab Dictatorships

Posted October 20th, 2011 at 6:15 pm (UTC-5)
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U.S. President Barack Obama says ousted Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's death is a warning to authoritarian strongmen across the Middle East that iron-fisted rule “inevitably comes to an end.”

Speaking at the White House Thursday, Mr. Obama hailed what he called “a momentous day in the history of Libya, telling its people “You have won your revolution.”

He said the road to full democracy will be difficult, but promised that the U.S. and the international community will “be a partner as you forge a future that provides dignity, freedom and opportunity.”

Mr. Obama said the Libyan people now have a great responsibility to build an “inclusive, tolerant, democratic” country. He called on Libyans to continue to work with the international community to secure dangerous materials and respect the rights of their countrymen.

Separately, Vice President Joe Biden applauded the U.S. decision to seek broad international backing for the Libya mission. He said America “spent $2 billion total and did not lose a single life.”

Mr. Obama later said the NATO-led effort in support of Libya's former rebels – which also involved several Arab states – showed the “enormous capacity” of multilateral action. He said the allies “did exactly what we said we were going to do in Libya.”

In Cairo, Arab League chief Nabil al-Arabi said he hoped Mr. Gadhafi's death would “turn the page of tyranny.” He urged Libyans to “overcome the wounds of the past and to forgo “grudges or sentiments of revenge.”

In August, Arab countries declared “full solidarity” with Libya's National Transitional Council. The pan-Arab body's call for a Libyan no-fly zone in March opened the way for NATO air strikes which tipped the balance in the rebels' favor.

Also Thursday, U.N. chief Ban Ki-moon said Mr. Gadhafi's death “marks a historic transition for Libya.” He called on all combatants to lay down their arms, warning the country can only “realize the promise of the future by national unity and reconciliation.”

European nations also hailed Mr. Gadhafi's fall.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel each said his death was a way to move forward toward a democratic Libya. Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi reacted by saying that now, “the war is over.”

European Union President Herman Van Rompuy and European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso issued a joint statement saying the former Libyan leader's death “marks the end to an era of despotism and repression.”

Back in Washington, former U.S. envoy Marc Ginsberg told VOA this is a “real time of healing” in Libya. He called the capture of Sirte and Mr. Gadhafi's killing an NTC “victory” that is crucial for Libyans to believe their interim leaders are a “coherent governing authority.”