By Daily Mail Reporter
‘Libya no-fly zone an option’: Obama gives strongest indication yet U.S. forces may be deployed in Middle East rebellion
President Barack Obama said today the U.S. was considering enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya.
In his strongest remarks yet about the Libya crisis, the President indicated that he was keeping ‘all options open’ including enforcing a controversial no-fly zone with American military aircraft.
Speaking at a meeting with Mexican premier Felipe Calderon, he insisted that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi leave office, declaring he had lost his authority to lead.
Obama also announced that U.S. military aircraft would play a humanitarian role by flying Egyptians who had fled Libya home to Egypt from makeshift camps in Tunisia.
He suggested that if a situation existed where Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was ‘hunkered down’ in his capital Tripoli, the United States might have to find a way to get food aid to Libyans.
As the president spoke, it emerged that British Prime Minister David Cameron’s plans for a no-fly zone over Libya have been slapped down by the U.S. Secretary of Defence who warned of ‘loose talk’ over military action in the wartorn country.
Robert Gates suggested that the zone could only be established if there was an initial military attack on the country first.
His rebuke came as British Foreign Secretary William Hague met with members of the French government to devise a plan of action over the deepening crisis in North Africa.
The no-fly zone had previously gained traction in the UK after Mr Cameron suggested the option as a way to halt Colonel Gaddafi launching attacks on rebels trying to force his removal.
But in recent days, Mr Cameron has faced stiff opposition to his proposals, with both China and Russia governments dismissing his calls, while the U.S. have now added their disapproval.
‘There is a lot of, frankly, loose talk about some of these military options,’ Gates told a Congressional committee today.
Gates had previously made it clear he had little enthusiasm for direct military intervention but did admit that were the Pentagon ordered by the President to carry out the action, they would be able to get the job done – despite claiming that the operation would require a large number of planes.
Mr Gates’ comments came as Mr Hague met with his French counterpart Alain Juppe in Paris ahead of an emergency European summit next week.
Mr Juppe stressed following the talks that Arab and African governments should get involved in any measures aimed at stemming Gaddafi’s ability to use force against his own people.
The Foreign Secretaries’ comments came as Barack Obama’s administration weighed its own military options to force Gaddafi to halt violence that has killed an unknown number of civilians in the country.
The administration’s concern was underlined on Wednesday in Libya’s capital, where Gaddafi lashed out against Europe and the United States for pressuring him to step down.
‘We will fight until the last man and woman,’ he vowed, warning that thousands of Libyans will die if U.S. and NATO forces intervened.
His warning came as two U.S. warships, the USS Kearsarge and USS Ponce, passed through the Suez Canal yesterday on their way to the Mediterranean Sea, closer to Libyan shores, Egyptian officials said.
Gates had previously said on Tuesday that he ordered the two warships into the Mediterranean, along with an extra 400 Marines, in case they are needed to evacuate civilians or provide humanitarian relief.