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US says closely watching Libyan situation

The US has said it is closely monitoring the situation in Libya and is in constant touch with its allies like NATO on possible actions against the Gaddafi regime.
PTI | By HT Correspondent, Washington
UPDATED ON MAR 05, 2011 11:37 AM IST

The US has said it is closely monitoring the situation in Libya and is in constant touch with its allies like NATO on possible actions against the Gaddafi regime, as it dispatched two military aircraft to the region with relief supplies for thousands of foreigners fleeing the strife-torn country.

Both the State Department and Pentagon said last night that two C-130 military transports had landed in Djerba, Tunisia, bordering Libya, delivering humanitarian supplies from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), a day after President Barack Obama made the announcement in this regard.

As part of 'Operation Odyssey Dawn', each aircraft carried three pallets of aid supplies, including 4,000 blankets, 40 rolls of plastic sheeting and 9,600 ten-liter water containers.

The supplies had been offloaded and were now headed for the border between Libya and Tunisia. The military aircraft had been sent at the request of Egyptian Government.

The entire operation under the US African Command has been code-named "Operation Odyssey Dawn", Pentagon spokesman Col Dave Lapan told reporters here.

The estimate of the International Organisation for Migration at this point is that 200,000 people have fled Libya. Of those, roughly 108,000 have been repatriated thus far.

There is an international airlift in progress which has significantly helped in easing the crisis caused by the influx of migrants into Tunisia, Lapan said.

State Department spokesman P J Crowley said the C-130 aircraft were expected to return tomorrow and participate in the flow of migrants from Tunisia back to Egypt.

"It is a tribute to both Egypt and Tunisia that notwithstanding their own transitions in each country, they have been able to effectively work with the international community and, broadly speaking, manage this tremendous influx out of Libya in both directions," he said, adding the global community, including the US, is prepared to help them.

The Pentagon, which has dispatched considerable air and naval assets to the region along with 400 marines, said it is closely monitoring the situation in Libya.

"We have seen very clearly broadcast reports showing effects of air power being used. Whether or not those were used on rebels, I can't say but ... there is evidence they have used air assets and dropped ordnance," Lapan said.

He said the Pentagon is in constant contact with its other allies, including NATO and Europe.

"We are still with options on the table. The overall operation is called Operation Odyssey Dawn," Lapan said, adding that as of now there is purely a humanitarian mission, even as all options are still on the table.

Crowley also said the US continues to watch the situation very closely inside Libya.

"We do know that there is an ongoing clash between elements that are still supporting or sympathetic with the Gaddafi regime and those who are now in opposition," he said.

"We continue to evaluate options as to how the international community might influence the situation inside Libya. Planning continues to provide the President with a range of options. We remain in discussions with allies, including NATO, about possible actions," Crowley said.

The best solution for Libya is for Gaddafi to cease his attacks against his people and step down, he asserted.

The fact that the Libyan government has turned lethal overwhelming force against its population is, obviously, of grave concern to the US and it believes that this has delegitimised Gaddafi as a leader for the country, he said.

"We have called for him to step down. We are gravely concerned about the ongoing violence, and obviously there is a risk that this violence could deepen into something like a civil war. We want to do everything that we can to avoid that happening. Again, the best solution here is for Colonel Gaddafi to give up the fight, step aside and open the door for new leadership in Libya," he said.

At the same time, Crowley said there is still room for dialogue to facilitate Gaddafi's departure from the scene.

"It is Gaddafi who has chosen to deepen the violence against his people, and that's why the Secretary (of State Hillary Clinton) and the (US) President and others have clearly called for Gaddafi to go," he said.

Crowley, however, said that he is not aware of about a specific help from any particular country, including India.

"I'm not aware of any specific help, but what we have been doing for the past couple of weeks is sharing information broadly across the international community. When we were chartering aircraft up to a week ago, we were opening seats for countries who were able to get their citizens to either the ship dock or the airport," he said.

"And likewise, in the succeeding week, we have been working with other countries as well, and in a small number of cases, we've been able to put Americans on board, ships and aircraft that are leaving Libya. So I'm not aware of any specific requests, but this is something that we are cooperating broadly as much as we can," he said.

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