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Obama lays out rationale for war in Libya

Until now, President Obama has been reluctant to make a major speech on Libya. Now, he's scheduled to speak on the Libya mission Monday, previewed in his Saturday radio address.

By Staff writer / March 26, 2011

Libyan rebels celebrate after taking the city of Ajdabiya, south of Benghazi in eastern Libya, Saturday, March 26, 2011. Libyan rebels regained control of the city after international airstrikes on Muammar Qaddafi's forces, in the first major turnaround for an uprising that once appeared on the verge of defeat.

Anja Niedringhaus/AP

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In a preview of what could be one of the most important speeches of his presidency, President Obama says US military action in Libya has been “in our national interest,” that the mission is “clear and focused,” and that “countless civilians – innocent men, women and children – have been saved” as a result.

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Obama is scheduled to speak to the nation about Libya on Monday evening from the National Defense University in Washington – something he’s been urged to do, especially by members of Congress who’ve felt left out of the decision to go to war in a third Muslim nation.

In his Saturday radio and Internet address, Obama laid out the rationale for US military action in Libya.

RELATED: UN resolution on Libya: Four ways it changes the conflict

As violent uprisings continued across the Middle East and northern Africa – most recently in Syria – Obama stressed that “the United States should not – and cannot – intervene every time there is a crisis somewhere in the world.”

But he said when a situation like Libya arises, and when other nations come together in a joint action, then the US should join the effort to prevent further tragedy.

"I firmly believe that when innocent people are being brutalized; when someone like Qaddafi threatens a bloodbath that could destabilize an entire region; and when the international community is prepared to come together to save many thousands of lives, then it's in our national interest to act," he said.

While the US continues to provide much of the firepower in the form of ship-launched cruise missiles and air attacks, NATO is in the process of taking over the lead role in enforcing the no-fly zone and arms embargo. Those take-over plans are expected to be completed Monday.

Canadian to head NATO effort

Canadian Lieutenant General Charles Bouchard is expected to head NATO's military effort in Libya. Still, the US will continue to be involved at the highest levels. While the Secretary General of NATO is Anders Fogh Rasmussen, the former prime minister of Denmark, NATO's top military commander is US Admiral James Stavridis.

In his radio address Saturday, Obama repeated his assertion that no US ground troops would be involved in Libya. At the same time, the US and its allies are considering whether to provide weapons to Libyan rebels, reports the Washington Post.

As the fight has see-sawed back and forth in some parts of Libya, the rebels reportedly made an important advance Saturday, regaining control of the eastern gateway city of Ajdabiya following international airstrikes against Muammar Qaddafi’s forces.

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