U.S. President Barack Obama condemned the “outrageous” crackdown by Libyan security forces on protesters and said Washington would work with international partners to hold Muammar Gaddafi’s government accountable.
“The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and it is unacceptable. So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters,” Obama said in his first public comments on the violence in Libya.
He did not directly criticize Gaddafi and he stopped short of backing sanctions against the oil-producing North African country.
Obama, the first U.S. president to meet Gaddafi, has faced criticism in some quarters for not speaking out sooner, but U.S. officials say they have tempered their response to ensure thousands of Americans in Libya can be safely evacuated.
“We are doing everything we can to protect American citizens. It is my highest priority,” Obama said at the White House.
Obama spoke as a U.S.-government chartered ferry prepared to evacuate Americans and other foreigners to the island of Malta in the Meditteranean. The U.S. government estimates there are several thousand Americans living in Libya. Most hold dual citizenship with about 600 carrying U.S. passports only.