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Obama wants Qaddafi out of Libya, but what is he ready to do?

Amid calls for a no-fly zone, Obama says a wide range of options are being discussed to deal with Libya. Analysts say he is in no hurry to use force, especially not unilaterally, to oust Qaddafi.

By Staff writer / March 7, 2011

An anti-Qaddafi rebel runs away as smoke rises following an air strike by Libyan warplanes near a checkpoint of the anti-Libyan Leader Muammar Qaddafi rebels, in the oil town of Ras Lanouf, eastern Libya, Monday, March 7. US President Obama said Monday that there continues to be 'unacceptable' violence in Libya, and that NATO allies are discussing a wide range of options, including potential military measures.

Hussein Malla/AP

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Washington

President Obama says he wants Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi out.

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But he’s also made it clear he’s not about to launch anything like George W. Bush’s Operation Iraqi Freedom, which rid Iraq of Saddam Hussein, or even like Ronald Reagan’s bombardment of Tripoli in 1986 – no matter how many senators and neoconservatives urge him toward more forceful action. [Editor's note: The original version of this paragraph gave the wrong year for Reagan's action against Tripoli.]

Mr. Obama, who is waiting for a list of options he ordered up (from the Pentagon in particular) last week, said Monday that there continues to be "unacceptable" violence in Libya, and that NATO allies are discussing a wide range of options, including potential military measures. Defense Secretary Robert Gates will join NATO defense ministers Thursday in Brussels to discuss international options in the crisis, including the possibility of imposing a no-fly zone.

But in the meantime, the president has given enough pointers to suggest how any eventual US intervention would be oriented: It would be international in scope – no go-it-alone action – and it is likely to be devised so that Africans and Muslims, and preferably Libyans themselves, were at the vanguard of any steps aimed at Qaddafi.

“If you had to sum up in a few words Obama’s vision of international intervention, it would be ‘multilateral if we can, unilateral only if we must, and the military should not be the first option,’ ” says Lawrence Korb, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress in Washington and a former assistant secretary of defense in the Reagan administration.

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