It was the fourth time Bin Jawwad has changed hands in less than three weeks, raising the specter of a prolonged stalemate along the sparsely populated stretch of coastal highway between the rebel stronghold of Benghazi to the east and Gaddafi’s heavily garrisoned home town of Sirte to the west.
Although the 40 world leaders meeting in London pledged humanitarian aid and continued airstrikes to protect civilians, they indicated that it would be up to the Libyans themselves to force Gaddafi out, leaving it unclear how they were supposed to do so.
The question of whether to arm the rebels was not publicly discussed, nor was the question of how to release frozen Libyan assets to help fund them. But the leaders attending the conference made it clear that the military campaign in Libya would not end until Gaddafi had gone.
“Gaddafi has lost the legitimacy to lead, so we believe he must go. We’re working with the international community to try to achieve that outcome,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton told reporters after the talks, indicating that the United States is pinning its hopes on defections from those around Gaddafi.
President Obama said Tuesday that he would not preclude the possibility of arming the rebels. Pressed on the issue in an interview with NBC News, Obama said, “I’m not ruling it out, but I’m also not ruling it in.”
“We are still making an assessment about what Gaddafi’s forces are doing,” the president said.
In a series of interviews with the three major television networks, Obama emphasized that his decision to deploy U.S. forces in Libya should not be applied to other countries in the Middle East and North Africa. He told NBC that his policy on Libya should not be construed as an “Obama doctrine” that can be applied in a “cookie-cutter fashion.”
The strongest challenge to Gaddafi in London came from the prime minister and foreign minister of Qatar, a nation that has been the most forthright Arab supporter of the Western-led military campaign in Libya. Hamad Bin Jasim al-Thani, the prime minister, warned “Gaddafi and his people to leave and not cause any more bloodshed.”
“Right now, we don’t see any indication of that,” he said. “But this hope which we offer now might not be on the table after a few days. I am not warning anybody here, but I’m trying to stop the bloodshed as soon as possible.”
Clinton and other leaders reiterated their conviction that the military campaign in Libya has saved lives by reversing the advance of Gaddafi forces toward Benghazi.