[UPDATE] President Barack Obama said on Thursday the United States would be a partner to Libya following the death of Muammar Gadhafi and said the NATO mission in the North African country would “soon come to an end.”
“This marks the end of a long and painful chapter for the people of Libya who now have the opportunity to determine their own destiny in a new and democratic Libya,” he told reporters in the White House Rose Garden.
Obama also said the death of Gadhafi, as reported by Libyan authorities, was significant in the Arab world where protests have provoked the fall of long-standing dictators. “The rule of an iron fist inevitably comes to an end,” he said.
[Oct. 20, 11 am] President Barack Obama will say publicly on Thursday that he believes deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi is likely dead, an administration official said.
“In his remarks, the president will cite the fact that Libyan officials have announced Gadhafi’s death. We have also received similar reports through diplomatic channels and have confidence in this reporting,” a White House official said.
[Oct. 20, 9:50 am] U.S. officials on Thursday scrambled to check reports that deposed Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi had died after being captured near his hometown of Sirte following months of civil war.
Gadhafi was wounded in the head and legs as he tried to flee in a convoy that came under attack from NATO warplanes at dawn, a senior official with Libya’s National Transitional Council told Reuters.
A senior Obama administration official said the U.S. was working to confirm the reports.
“We’re working on it,” the official said.
Gadhafi’s death followed months of NATO military action in Libya that began over a government crackdown against pro-democracy protesters inspired by protests in neighboring Tunisia and Egypt that ended in the overthrow of long-standing autocratic leaders.
The United States led the initial air strikes on Gadhafi’s forces but quickly handed the lead over to NATO, while taking a secondary role to Britain and France.
The NATO bombing campaign helped Libya’s rebels take power.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday became the most senior U.S. official to visit Tripoli since Gadhafi’s four-decade rule ended in August.
Clinton hailed “Libya’s victory.” But her visit was marked by tight security in a sign of worries that the country’s new rulers have yet to establish full control over the country.
Gadhafi was wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of ordering the killing of civilians.
He was believed to be hiding deep in Libya’s Sahara desert. His wife, two sons and a daughter fled to neighboring Algeria shortly after Tripoli fell to rebel forces in August.
Reporting by Matt Spetalnick, Alister Bull, Jeff Mason, Laura MacInnis and David Morgan; Editing by Vicki Allen