US 'dragging their feet' on Gaddafi
07 March 2011, 09:42
Washington - The United States may have missed an opportunity to oust Muammar Gaddafi by "dragging its feet" on aiding rebels in the first weeks of Libya's uprising, a former minister said on Sunday.
"We asked for help when he was on the ropes," Libya's former immigration minister Ali Errishi, who resigned shortly after the uprising began nearly three weeks ago, told CNN talk show "State of the Union."
"I said, you give us little help now. It was just a little nudge," when what was needed was greater US military support at the height of the chaos as Gaddafi loyalists were on the back foot when several key government and military figures abandoned the regime, Errishi said.
"They were dragging their feet, I don't know why," said the former minister. "We asked - we don't want a no-fly zone actually - we just want air cover."
He also stressed he had "no doubt" that Gaddafi would refuse to negotiate terms for his own departure after more than 41 years in power in the North African nation.
"This is a man who has shown that there's only one choice for Libyan people: either I rule you or I kill you."
US President Barack Obama has insisted that all options remained on the table with respect to Libya, including military action.
Arm the rebels
Calls grew louder on Sunday for establishment of a no-fly zone over Libya, where Gaddafi’s military forces have unleashed deadly airstrikes on rebel forces and civilians as the regime struggles to maintain control.
Stephen Hadley, national security advisor for Obama's predecessor George W Bush, said it was time for the administration to look at more direct diplomatic or military options - including arming the rebels.
"Obviously, if there is a way to get weapons into the hands of the rebels, if we can get anti-aircraft systems so that they can enforce a no-fly zone over their own territory, that would be helpful," Hadley told CNN on the same show.
Former New Mexico governor and one-time US envoy to the United Nations Bill Richardson also said on Sunday it was time to "covertly arm the rebels" and enforce a no-fly zone over Libya.
Obama's 2008 rival for the presidency, Republican US Senator John McCain, also reiterated his call for a no-fly zone, saying it would "send a signal to Gaddafi" that Obama was serious in his call for the Libyan leader to step down.
"We can't risk allowing Gaddafi to massacre people from the air," he said, but warned against full military intervention, saying a "ground intervention would not be appropriate".