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Posted at 04:31 PM ET, 03/18/2011

Obama: Gaddafi can stay, after all


President Obama just delivered an ultimatum to Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi:

Now, once more, Moammar Gaddafi has a choice:  The resolution that passed lays out very clear conditions that must be met. The United States, the United Kingdom, France, and Arab states agree that a cease-fire must be implemented immediately. That means all attacks against civilians must stop. Gaddafi must stop his troops from advancing on Benghazi, pull them back from Ajubiyah, Misrata, and Zawiyah, and establish water, electricity, and gas supplies to all areas. Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya. Let me be clear: These terms are not negotiable. These terms are not subject to negotiation. If Gaddafi does not comply with the resolution, the international community will impose consequences. And the resolution will be enforced through military action.

It sounded tough. But the statement was most striking for what the president did not say — namely that “Gaddafi must go.” Two weeks ago, Obama issued declaratory policy for the United States: “Let me just be very unambiguous about this. Colonel Gaddafi needs to step down from power and leave.” Now, apparently, if Gaddafi enacts as cease-fire, pulls back his forces, and restores electricity, gas, and water to the cities he has placed under siege, he is free to continue his brutal rule of the Libyan people. 

This was a huge walk back for the president, and a huge victory for Moammar Gaddafi.

By Marc Thiessen  |  04:31 PM ET, 03/18/2011

 
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