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Obama: 'People of Libya Must Be Protected'; French Jets Enforcing No-Fly Zone; Sarkozy: Air Power to Counter Gadhafi; Secretary Clinton Speaks From Paris on Libya
Aired March 19, 2011 - 12:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JOHN VAUSE, CNN INTERNATIONAL ANCHOR: Elise Labott is standing by as we wait - work on this translation issue and wait for the U.S. president to speak. And, Elise, this has been a very difficult time for the State Department, not just in the last couple of days, but certainly in the last few weeks.
ELISE LABOTT, CNN SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT PRODUCER: Well, John, the truth is that they really don't know that much about Libya. As you remember, the U.S. only kind of restored ties with Moammar Gadhafi in 2005 after he settled that Lockerbie case.
So they really don't have that many people on the ground. They opened their embassy but really know - don't know the lay of the land in Libya, and that's the problem with this opposition. They really don't know who is in this opposition. There are some tribal leaders, there's some former military officials. There is a concern that - that there are some rebels that have some extremist tendencies.
So they've really been trying to not only figure out who's in the opposition, but, as we've been talking about all morning, how the U.S. really wants to play this. They really want the Arabs to - as the - one official said, to have a skin in the game.
It's not only about the United States kind of not - not taking the lead here, but the Arabs said, they said that they supported this U.N. resolution, they supported a no-fly zone. The U.S. wants to say, OK, you have to put your money where your mouth is. You say you support it, you don't - we don't want to go in the next day and then you're not putting up any forces, you're not - you're criticizing the U.S. for foreign military intervention.
So they want to make sure that the Arabs are along with them so then they can't be blamed later on.
HOLMES: But -
LABOTT: So that's -
HOLMES: Oh, no, no. Go ahead. Finish your point there.
LABOTT: So that's why we've been seeing Secretary Clinton really in the last week reaching out to those Arab leaders, saying we need you with us. You say you're going to - you say you support this, you say you want us to enforce a no-fly zone, what are you going to do to stand with us to do this?
This is really extraordinary. An Arab League authorizing force against one of its members. As we've said, it's really a unique since the Gulf War in 1991.
T.J. HOLMES, CNN ANCHOR: Unique, historic in many ways there, Elise, but no matter what, will there still be some elements, certainly in the Arab world, who will see this as still being operated, still being controlled behind the scenes, at least in large part, by western powers, appearing once again to be exerting some kind of military action in another Arab country?
LABOTT: Well, we've seen -- that's why this is really unique, because nobody has any love for Moammar Gadhafi, not even in the Arab street. And so, that's why the United States is hoping that the Arab world really supports them getting rid of Moammar Gadhafi.
We really haven't had anybody in the Arab world voicing concern for Gadhafi so far. And so, that's why the U.S. is saying, if the Arabs are along with us, you can't -- you can't criticize us, and that's why they've been reaching out to these Arab states.
Also if you take a look at the resolution, the Arabs said they didn't want any foreign intervention. The resolution reads no occupational force. I mean, as we've been talking about, because Gadhafi has been moving his troops, moving his tanks, what the hope is is that the U.S. and its allies and the Arabs will enforce this no-fly zone, take care of Gadhafi's air defenses.
The whole question the U.S. and its allies have been talking about is what happens next. They're hoping that this no-fly zone will create a buffer between the east and the west, and then it's really unclear what's going to happen.
How are they going to help the opposition get rid of Gadhafi? We're talking about possibly arming them. There's, you know, a lot -- this resolution is very interesting the way it's written. It's very legalistic.
But if you read between the lines, we're talking about possibly arming are the opposition, possibly training the opposition, using all these frozen funds of the Libyan regime that the states around the world have been freezing, possibly to support aiding the opposition.
And so, this no-fly zone is really the beginning of this campaign to get rid of Gadhafi. The no-fly zone is to protect the civilians, to get rid of his air defenses. I think we really have to see what happens next in terms of the next steps of getting rid of Gadhafi.
VAUSE: OK. And Elise you mentioned U.N. Resolution 1973, which was passed on Thursday, a stunning resolution in many ways.
Richard Roth is standing by in our New York bureau, he is our senior U.N. correspondent.
And, Richard, we know that the French have taken the lead on this diplomatically it seems and now militarily. Elise touched on the scope of this resolution, but what can we expect to see at least from a legal point of view from what the U.N. Has approved?
RICHARD ROTH, CNN SENIOR UNITED NATIONS CORRESPONDENT: Well, this is the document, I normally don't like to hold up props on the air, but it is amazing that this is the international law framework for what action is now possibly taking place in the skies over Libya, and perhaps eventually on the ground, either going up or going down.
For this resolution, it was a very quickly deliberated on and passed by U.N. standards. Stunning, you might say, for a lot of observers.
The French, as you've been saying all morning, have been using words like "earthquake" for the pace of revolution in the north African region, and how the Security Council is trying to help the people of Libya. And now he calls it a "game changer," the French ambassador, the Arab League recommendation for the no-fly zone.
Yes, as Elise was referring to with this resolution, everything is always legal. There's wiggle room, again, regarding the wording. That term "all necessary means to enforce the resolution," those were some of the stumbling block words regarding the last Gulf War, which started with shock and awe in 2003.
It's been a role reversal here. The French were not in favor of that. You remember the dramatic moments in the Security Council with the French foreign minister dueling with Colin Powell, the U.S. secretary of state. Now France is in the lead with the U.S. also there, not as prominently but certainly providing key work.
The president of the United States in Brazil, which is one of the five countries that abstained on this resolution. They didn't -- Brazil does not have veto power, but it should be noted that Brazil, India, Germany, China and Russia abstained. Very important, say diplomats, of course, that China and Russia, while not really happy with any use of force in a U.N. Member Country, worried about their own countries' affairs and setting a precedent, they didn't block this resolution.
So, as Elise mentioned, calls for no foreign occupation, that possibly leaves room for any further activity on the ground. But as we've seen with other conflicts, John and T.J., things tend to go awry, different things happen.
Will the Russians call for an emergency Security Council meeting if other targets are hit in Libya, which are not really in Moscow's view, protection of civilians?
Will they go after Gadhafi if he doesn't negotiate, as President Obama said?
So there's a lot more still to be revealed, despite all the words down on paper in this resolution.
HOLMES: And, Richard, as I ask you another question here, remind our viewers we're keeping an eye on -- we're just expecting the president, or waiting for the president of the United States to speak here in a moment. We're listening to the Brazilian president right now making opening comments as the president makes a three-nation tour of Latin America right now.
But, Richard, you talk about that paper and the words written on it. There's so much talk about the actual no-fly zone, but there is so much more to this resolution.
Remind people watching now, it's not just a resolution imposing a no-fly zone.
ROTH: This was very, very interesting discussions at the United Nations, how quickly it changed --
HOLMES: I apologize, here, Richard. I apologize.
We do have the president starting to speak. As I do that, we start to lose the signal. Having an issue with our satellite there.
We did pop right back up last time we did this happen, hoping it will open again.
Richard, as I wait on that, I will you go ahead and finish what you were saying. Again, more to this resolution than just the no-fly zone we seem to be hearing so much about. And I do apologize if I do have to interrupt you again if we get the president back.
ROTH: I mean, it appears it was a quick turn in U.S. government circles as President Obama, Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador, Secretary Clinton got on board with more of the muscular approach towards handling the Gadhafi situation.
In fact, Gadhafi's government may have brought on the quick pace themselves as their tanks and troops moved and retook towns held by rebels.
So they were probably very happy that the focus was on no-fly, no-fly, but behind the scenes they were working to put in much tougher language in the resolution, regarding all necessary means. As Susan Rice, the U.S. ambassador in the Security Council, said, if we're going to do something, let's make it a credible resolution. They didn't want to do something that would probably result in just a standoff or a very expensive, costly no-fly operation that might not be able to change the situation on the ground.
And they're used to dealing with Gadhafi, but they don't often get the results they want. This is a regime in Tripoli which has survived years of U.N. sanctions after the bombing of Pan Am 103 in Lockerbie, Scotland.
This resolution has additional sanctions not many people are talking about. Countries are supposed to have this are ships stopped on the high seas and searched to make sure in this massive embargo that supplies are not getting into the Gadhafi regime. Also, the Libyan national banks, other oil company interests there, they're trying to squeeze Gadhafi from every means possible.
But he's been quite resilient and he has money, and the tough talk from Tripoli so far doesn't indicate any impact. We'll have to see what gives in the next few hours.
Back to you.
HOLMES: All right, Richard Roth, we do appreciate you.
We'll have him on standby and many others this morning as we go through some of these fast-moving developments happening in Libya.
I'm going to hand it over to my partner here, John Vause from CNN International. Fredricka Whitfield will be in this seat here in just a moment here as our coverage continues.
And again, we're trying to work on satellite signal to get the president back up. Expecting him to be making comments right now about what we're seeing in Libya.
VAUSE: We'll be back after a short break.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: Good afternoon, I'm Fredricka Whitfield along with my colleague here, who has been with you all morning long, just about, John Vause.
VAUSE: For the past hour or so, yes.
WHITFIELD: Let's go back to Brazil right now because now we have that signal so we can hear President Obama there talking about the economy there in Brazil, but like will he he's going to have a comment or two about what's taking place in Libya.
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BARACK OBAMA, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: -- cooperation even further in green buildings.
On the security front, our militaries are working more closely to respond to humanitarian crises as we did together in Haiti. Our law enforcement communities are partnering against the narco traffickers who threaten all of us. Brazil is joining the international effort to prevent nuclear smuggling through ports.
I thanked President Rousseff for Brazil's leadership towards establishing a new regional center to promote excellence in nuclear security. And as a member of Human Rights Council, Brazil joined with us in condemning human rights abuses by Libya.
I want to briefly mention the situation in Libya, because this is something that I've discussed with the president.
Yesterday, the international community demanded an immediate cease-fire in Libya, including an end to all attacks against civilians.
Today, Secretary Clinton joined an international coalition of our European and Arab partners in Paris to discuss how we will enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973.
Our consensus was strong and our resolve is clear, the people of Libya must be protected. And in the absence of an immediate end to the violence against civilians, our coalition is prepared to act and act with urgency. And I've -- I'm briefing President Rousseff on the steps that we are taking.
Finally, I'm especially pleased that the United States and Brazil are joining together to advance development and democratic governance beyond our hemisphere.
Brazil is helping to lead the global initiative that I announced at the United Nations last year to promote open government and new technologies that empower citizens around the world.
Today, we're launching new efforts to help other countries combat corruption and prevent child labor, and we're expanding our efforts to promote food security and agricultural development in Africa.
I believe this is just the beginning of what our two countries can do together in the world. That's why the United States will continue our efforts to make sure that the new realities of the 21st century are reflected in international institutions, as Madam President mentioned, including the United Nations, where Brazil aspires to a seat on the Security Council.
As I told President Rousseff, the United States is going to keep working with Brazil and other nations on reforms that make the Security Council more effective, more efficient, more representative, and advance our shared vision of a more secure and peaceful world.
So again, with today's progress, I believe we've laid the foundation for greater cooperation between the United States and Brazil for decades to come.
I want to thank President Rousseff for her leadership, for making this progress possible. I have not known Madam President long, but I can tell in speaking to her the extraordinary passion she has for providing opportunity for all the people of Brazil, lifting everyone up. And that's a passion I share with respect to my citizens in the United States, my fellow citizens in the United States of America.
So I am confident that given this shared spirit, this camaraderie that exists not only at our levels, but among our peoples, that we are going to continue to make progress for a long time to come.
I'm very much looking forward to visiting Rio tomorrow and the opportunity to speak directly to the Brazilian people about what our countries can do together as global partners in the 21st century.
Thank you so much.
VAUSE: Well, that was the U.S. president, Barack Obama, speaking in the Brazilian capital of Brasilia. Being quite emphatic, but very, very brief on Libya. He says the consensus is strong, our resolve is clear, the people of Libya must be protected.
That is all he said about the current situation right now. French fighter jets in the skies over Libya right now enforcing that U.N. resolution, 1973.
WHITFIELD: And for many reasons being careful, being diplomatic about things as things continue to develop there. Especially, with that meeting taking place earlier today in Paris involving members of the European Union, the U.S. as well as Iraq and Morocco. We're going to be talking with General Wesley Clark.
VAUSE: Former supreme commander of NATO.
WHITFIELD: That's right. He's had a lot of experience in these and we're going to talk to him about the strategy here and why it is so important at this juncture that the U.S. says it doesn't want to take the lead, instead it will be France and the U.K. that will take the lead in any military action in Libya, right after this.
VAUSE: And welcome back to our coverage here of the situation in Libya. We just heard from the U.S. president, Barack Obama, a short time ago about this no-fly zone which is currently in effect over Libya.
WHITFIELD: That's right. And we know that French fighter jets have already been seen flying over Libya. Not dropping missiles, not engaging in any kind of warfare, but instead as a way of averting these Libyan forces from actually firing upon, continuing to fire upon the opposition or even civilians there in Libya.
VAUSE: We did hear from Arwa Damon who is in eastern Libya, the situation in Benghazi right now, she says it is fairly quiet. That, I guess, would be a positive development, that maybe this no-fly zone is having some kind of impact, at least stalling the advances of the Gadhafi forces that we've seen for the last 24 hours, 48 hours in particular.
WHITFIELD: Well let's get a better idea about this military action. What could happen next? What is the plan going forward? We're joined by CNN contributor Wesley Clark, who is joining us from Little Rock, Arkansas.
All right, well, this is a very interesting juncture we're in right now. We know the European Union is on board, Iraq is on board, as well as Morocco. They've all been meeting in Paris earlier today to talk about what next. The U.S. trying to take a backseat, not trying to lead this effort.
Give us an idea first why this is so important or perhaps you see this as a smart strategic point of view for France to have their fighter jets flying over Libya, not to engage in military action, however; not yet.
GEN. WESLEY CLARK (RET.), CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Well, the action is both military and diplomatic at this point.
And I guess the first thing is to note this is not a U.S.-led coalition, at least not at this point. And I think that's a really smart move by the administration, trying to keep President Barack Obama from being in a direct face-off with Moammar Gadhafi, which would only further exacerbate some of the other attendant difficulties with this. So first, you know, that's a smart move.
It looks like President Sarkozy has wanted to take the lead. I think that's appropriate. France, Britain and other European countries have much more direct economic and humanitarian interest in Libya than we do, because they're buying the oil, they're talking about using the solar energy, they're going to have to deal with the refugee outflow from Libya and so forth. So all of that seems right to me.
But what's happening on the ground, of course, we're not there. It's a little bit of a puzzle. OK, it's quiet. But if you were Moammar Gadhafi, wouldn't you be at this point -- you haven't said you're going to agree to give up power in Libya. In fact, you've said -- you've promised revenge and you've said it's your country and for the U.N. to stay out.
So what you'd be doing is you'd be infiltrating your troops quietly into Benghazi prepared to try and seize control during the hours of darkness when presumably the international community's asleep, the aircraft overhead can't see much, if anything, and you try to do this without a big show of force on the ground.
And that could be what he's trying to do. On the other hand, it could be that now there's a reassessment.
What the aircraft overhead show is that France is taking the lead in this, that they are implementing the first stages, and they're holding the door open to be able to talk to Gadhafi and give him a way out, so it doesn't come down to a fight to the finish. The question is will Gadhafi take it or not.
VAUSE: Yes, big question there.
General Clark, just stand by. We have General Kimmitt also with us here in the United States, he's in our Washington bureau.
And, General Kimmitt, one question for you, it seemed like these fighter jets were in the air even before that meeting in Paris was over. Were you surprised by the timing of that? BRIG. GEN. MARK KIMMITT (RET.), FORMER ASST. SEC. FOR BUREAU OF MILITARY-POLITICAL AFFAIRS: Oh, I don't think so. I think it's important to recognize that we're probably seeing reconnaissance airplanes doing what we call the intelligence preparation of the battlefield, trying to get a visual look at what's on the ground as well as an electronic mapping of the radar sites in the sand sights.
I should note that it's very interesting that you have General Clark on. The most comparable military campaign, what we should see unfolding in Libya in the next few days, was very similar to what General Clark ran in 1999 in the Kosovo campaign.
He is the brilliant architect of that successful prosecution of the Kosovo air campaign against Milosevic, and I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned from what happened in Kosovo in 1999 to what we should see unfold in the next two weeks.
VAUSE: Well, General Clark, you want to pick up and run with that? When it comes to air power and enforcing the no-fly zones, what will be the problems for enforcing U.N. Resolution 1973?
CLARK: Yes, I think a couple things.
One is, I think, you know, it's a different environmental situation than we had in Kosovo. We went in there in March. We had a lot of cloud cover. We flew high so we didn't lose aircraft. We didn't have the advanced technology that's available on at least in the United States for our air forces right now, so we were less effective at dealing with ground forces, as Barbara Starr mentioned last hour on this network.
But we'll see whether France and U.K. and perhaps some of the Emirate aircraft have the updated technology necessary to enable them to conduct effective strikes against forces on the ground.
Once the fighting devolves into fighting in the cities, it's going to be very hard for air power to be decisive in a role like that, and we could be faced with a fait accompli where the last rebel stronghold has fallen and then it's all about going after war crimes violations and other things and you're escalating it to a different -- to a different level and different purpose at that point.
So it's a very dynamic campaign and there are some huge risks. I'm glad to see the French taking the lead on this. I think it's appropriate.
WHITFIELD: And to both generals; Clark, you first.
We heard President Obama saying yesterday that no U.S. ground troops would be used here. So as you talked about the air support, French taking the lead right now, possibly depending on their technology whether the U.K. would be involved, do you have see a potential problem with too many air support -- too many countries representing air support in the air at one time over Libya?
CLARK: I think it's a question, really, of whether -- this is as much on Gadhafi as it is on us. As Mark Kimmitt said, this is probably intelligence preparation of the battlefield, these are probably reconnaissance airplanes that are trying to figure out what are the exact dispositions of the Libyan forces are.
But when it comes down to actually bringing the strikes in, probably someone's going to have to go in on the ground to help direct those airstrikes. The French have people that can do that, the Brits have people that can do that. We don't have to do that. It doesn't have to be our aircraft.
We're going to have to have a common language. And so, hopefully, the French ground controllers will be able to communicate in English, I know the French pilots can do so, and then it could be effective. Ultimately, a lot of it depends on the diplomacy and how effective the diplomacy is.
WHITFIELD: OK. And let me interrupt you for a moment, General Clark and General Kimmitt. We'll get back to you, but we want to go straight to Paris right now, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton taking to the microphone. Let's hear her words.
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CLINTON: -- a lot of days in this job when I ask myself, what would Warren do? From the Balkans to the Middle East, China and Vietnam, he helped guide the United States through difficult challenges with tremendous grace and wisdom.
My thoughts and prayers are with his family and with his many, many friends and colleagues throughout our country and around the world.
Now, this has been a quick but productive trip, and I want to give you a brief update and then answer your questions.
First, let's remember how we got here. As you know, Americans and people around the world watched with growing concern as Libyan civilians were gunned down by a government that has lost all legitimacy.
The people of Libya appealed for help. The Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council called for action. The international community came together to speak with one voice and to deliver a clear and consistent message, Colonel Gadhafi's campaign of violence against his own people must stop.
The strong votes in the United Nations Security Council underscored this unity, and now the Gadhafi forces face unambiguous terms. A cease-fire must be implemented immediately.
That means all attacks against civilians must stop. Troops must stop advancing on Benghazi and pull back from Ajdabiya, Misrata and Zawiyah. Water, electricity and gas supplies must be turned on to all areas. Humanitarian assistance must be allowed to reach the people of Libya. Yesterday, President Obama said very clearly that if Gadhafi failed to comply with these terms there would be consequences. Since the president spoke, there has been some talk from Tripoli of a cease- fire, but the reality on the ground tells a very different story. Colonel Gadhafi continues to defy the world. His attacks on civilians go on.
Today, we have been monitoring the troubling reports of fighting around and within Benghazi itself. As President Obama also said, we have every reason to fear that left unchecked Gadhafi will commit unspeakable atrocities.
It is against that backdrop that nations from across the region and the world met today here in Paris to discuss the ways we can, working together, implement Resolution 1973. We all recognize that further delay will only put more civilians at risk.
So let me be very clear about the position of the United States. We will support an international coalition as it takes all necessary measures to enforce the terms of Resolution 1973.
As you may know, French planes are already in the skies above Benghazi. Now, America has unique capabilities, and we will bring them to bear to help our European and Canadian allies and Arab partners stop further violence against civilians, including through the effective implementation of a no-fly zone.
As President Obama said, the United States will not deploy ground troops, but there should be no mistaking our commitment to this effort.
Today, I was able to discuss the next steps with the full group and also conduct smaller, focused conversations with many of my colleagues.
I met first with President Sarkozy and Prime Minister Cameron. Both France and the United Kingdom, along with other key partners, have stepped forward to play a leading role in enforcing 1973.
We reviewed the latest reports from the ground and discussed how we can work together most effectively in the hours and days ahead and how we would work very cooperatively with our other partners, including Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Turkey, as well as others that are not in that long list.
I also had the opportunity to engage today with my Arab counterparts, including Foreign Minister Zebari of Iraq, representing the presidency of the Arab Summit, Secretary General Amre Moussa of the Arab League, Prime Minister Hamad bin Jassim of Qatar, Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed of the UAE, Foreign Minister Fassi Fihri of Morocco and Foreign Minister Judeh of Jordan.
We have said from the start that Arab leadership and participation in this effort is crucial. And the Arab League showed that, with its pivotal statements on Libya, what really that meant. It changed the diplomatic landscape. They have sent another strong message by being here today, and we look to them for continued leadership, as well as active participation and partnership going forward.
With Sheikh Abdullah and Prime Minister Hamid bin Jassim, I reiterated our strong and enduring partnership. The United States has an abiding commitment to gulf security, and a top priority is working together with our partners, on our shared concerns about Iranian behavior in the region.
We share the view that Iran's activities in the gulf, including its efforts to advance its agenda in neighboring countries, undermines peace and stability. Our gulf partners are critical to the international community's efforts on Libya, and we thank them for their leadership.
We also had a constructive discussion on Bahrain. We have a decades-long friendship with Bahrain that we expect to continue long into the future. Our goal is a credible political process that can address the legitimate aspirations of all the people of Bahrain, starting with the crown prince's dialogue, which all parties should join.
Of course, that process should unfold in a peaceful, positive atmosphere that protects the freedom of peaceful assembly, while ensuring that students can go to school, businesses can operate, and people can undertake their normal daily activities. My GCC counterparts said they share the same goals in Bahrain.
Now, Bahrain obviously has the sovereign right to invite GCC forces into its territory under its defense and security agreements. The GCC has also announced a major aid package for economic and social development in Bahrain.
We have made clear that security alone cannot resolve the challenges facing Bahrain. As I said earlier this week, violence is not and cannot be the answer; a political process is. We have raised our concerns about the current measures directly with Bahraini officials and will continue to do so.
With all of these partners, we have discussed the urgent humanitarian needs arising from the crisis in Libya. I thanked the Arab leaders for their generous contributions to aid refugees fleeing Gadhafi's violence, and we agreed that this will be a critical concern in the days ahead. Egypt and Tunisia in particular will need all of our support. The United States has made significant pledges of assistance, and we look to all our allies and partners to join us in this work.
Now, this is a fluid and fast-moving situation, which may be the understatement of the time. And I know that there are lots of questions that people have about what next and what will we be doing. So let me just underscore the key point.
This is a broad international effort. The world will not sit idly by while more innocent civilians are killed. The United States will support our allies and partners as they move to enforce resolution 1973. We are standing with the people of Libya and we will not waver in our efforts to protect them.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, will U.S. military assets be engaged in actually flying these live-fire sorties? Your locution -- twice you said the U.S. will support our allies, and I'm just wondering how active will U.S. military involvement be?
CLINTON: Well, I think that I'll stand by what I said. We will support the enforcement of 1973. We have unique capabilities to bring to the international efforts, and we intend to do so.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you mentioned closely (ph) here again that it's important, or crucial, for Arab leadership and participation. Do we know exactly what that leadership and participation is now specifically, and which countries are going to be doing it?
CLINTON: Well, Matt, I think the fact that we had the representation around the table that we did today and the very strong statements that were made by Arab representatives is extraordinarily important. But I will leave it to them to announce their contributions. I think that's the appropriate way for any further information to be made available.
QUESTION: I'm sorry, but you do expect something more than them just being at the table today, that they have promised --
CLINTON: Yes, we do expect more.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, do you have -- actually, the reports now coming in from Benghazi are that it is quiet and it appears that the tanks have stopped. I know it's moving quickly, so I wouldn't even ask you to go there. But in general, President Sarkozy said that the doors of diplomacy will open when the aggression stops.
Now, can you explain, number one, what that means? Is that the view of the entire coalition? Could it actually engage with Moammar Gadhafi after what has happened?
CLINTON: Well, Jill, I will let President Sarkozy explain his own statement, but our assessment is that the aggressive actions by Gadhafi forces continue in many places in the country. We saw it over the last 24 hours, and we have seen no real effort on the part of the Gadhafi forces to abide by a ceasefire, despite the rhetoric.
Several of the speakers around the table said forcefully that they've heard these words, they've heard them publicly, they were conveyed privately, and they are not true. So I think our assessment is that it's time for the international community to take action to back up resolution 1973.
QUESTION: In terms of the goal of this operation, is it to protect civilians or is it to remove President Gadhafi from power? CLINTON: It is to protect civilians and it is to provide access for humanitarian assistance. If you read the very comprehensive resolution that the Security Council passed, it is focused on protecting civilians from their own government. Yes?
QUESTION: Has there been any indication -- I know you said -- has Bahrain or the UAE given you any indication that they'd fly fighter jets over Libya at all?
CLINTON: Again, I'm going to let individual countries make their own announcements.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, the president's comments yesterday seemed to stop short of repeating his and your calls for Gadhafi to step down. I'm wondering if you could go back to that question. Is there any way that the U.S. could see the Libya situation resolving itself with Gadhafi somehow still in play? And what does this action with the U.N. resolution mean for Gadhafi's survival in the short or long term?
CLINTON: You know, those are all questions that, standing here, are difficult to answer. And certainly, the conditions that will unfold as we begin to enforce this resolution will make a -- a new environment in which people are going to act, including those around Colonel Gadhafi.
So I think we should -- we should take stock of where we are and how we got here, and how many times the international community called on Gadhafi to end the violence against his own people and to take demonstrable steps to end the aggression and pull back. And time and time again, starting with the first resolution 1970 through the succeeding time period, there was no evidence that he intended to do so, despite various claims that were made.
And if the international community is to have credibility in this show of unity that 1973 represents, then action must take place. And if you look at all the possible permutations of what could or could not happen once the international community begins to enforce the resolution, there are many different outcomes, and I'm not going to speculate on what will occur.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, I know you said you didn't want to talk about what steps might come next, but what did the group of leaders today actually agree to do?
CLINTON: They agreed to take all necessary measures, including military action, to enforce 1973.
QUESTION: (INAUDIBLE) the details of that?
CLINTON: Well, those are operational details. You know, I think that it's understandable that we're not going to lay out every -- every asset that's been pledged and every action that's been endorsed. But I think the coming together under President Sarkozy's leadership today to reiterate that the words agreed to in the Security Council were more than just rhetorical commitments, but are being translated into very specific actions. Some countries are more public with their specific pledges to what they are willing to do, and others are looking at how they can best contribute. But the conclusion of this meeting was, for me, very positive because it was an unmistakable commitment to enforcing the 1973 provisions. Yes?
QUESTION: What specific actions do (ph) to the timeline for Gadhafi to act? How does it accelerate that?
CLINTON: Well, I think as I said, French planes were in the air as we were meeting, and there will be other actions to follow. But there is no doubt that we're going to begin to enforce the resolution.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you yourself have said for much of the 40 years Colonel Gadhafi has run that country, he's been branded an international outlaw. What is the compelling interest to the average American today to take this action?
CLINTON: I think there are three very important interests. Number one, with all of the activities that Colonel Gadhafi engaged in in the past, we in the United States had a very clear interest in trying to contain him and prevent him from taking both direct and indirect actions against us and our people, as well as many others.
Following his decision to give up nuclear weapons in 2005, when it was finally resolved, it appeared that there might be a new opportunity from him to join the international community. But unfortunately, that has not borne to be true, and we now have the very brutal crackdown that he is conducting, which reminds us all why he was considered an outlaw in the past. And it's -- it's unfortunate, but it is a reality that we have to take into account.
Secondly, this has been a time of great ferment in the region. You have two countries bordering Libya, Egypt and Tunisia, that are committed to a democratic transformation. And they have long borders with Libya and they are facing humanitarian crises on those borders. And there is a lot of concern about the people who are still inside Libya, both Libyans and third party nationals, that no one can get to and that are basically unaccounted for, and a very unfortunate surmise that Gadhafi does not approve of democracy and the actions being taken by his neighbors, which poses a lot of questions about what he might do in the future.
But thirdly, the Arab League and the Gulf Cooperation Council statements calling for actions by the United Nations were of historic importance. There was a recognition by the Arab countries that Gadhafi had to be suspended from the Arab League, but even beyond that, that a no-fly zone and related actions had to be taken. I think it would be quite unfortunate if the international community were to have ignored those requests, and it is in America's interests, along with our European and Canadian allies, to forge strategic partnerships with Arab nations as we move forward into this new era of change in the Arab world.
So there are very specific reasons. There are regional concerns, and then there are, in my view, very strong strategic rationales as to why the United States will support -- we did not lead this, we did not engage in unilateral actions in any way, but we strongly support the international community taking action against governments and leaders who behave as Gadhafi is unfortunately doing so now. And we think an international order that can bring about this kind of unity is very much in America's interests.
QUESTION: Secretary Clinton, could I just ask one follow-up? You just said, as conditions are unfolding that will create a new environment in which people will act, including those around Colonel Gadhafi -- is that -- do we read that to say you are, in essence, giving up on influencing Colonel Gadhafi, that you are now aiming a lot of this at the people who are around him, who support him?
CLINTON: I think we're aiming the messages at all the decision makers inside Libya. As you know, there have been quite a number of defections. The opposition is largely led by those who defected from the Gadhafi regime or who formally served it, and it is certainly to be wished for that there will be even more such defections, that people will put the future of Libya and the interests of the Libyan people above their service to Colonel Gadhafi.
QUESTION: May I ask a non-no-fly zone question, which is -- you met with Mr. Jibril (ph) here in Paris not that long ago.
CLINTON: Right, not that long ago.
QUESTION: Are you any closer to making a decision on whether to follow the French lead in recognizing the Benghazi-based opposition?
CLINTON: We are not ready to make a decision. We have increased our outreach and cooperation with members and leaders of the opposition. We are in almost hourly contact with someone. But we think that the most important step for us to take now is to assist in every way that is unique to American capabilities with the enforcement of 1973, which is, after all, the principle demand of the opposition. And that's what we're trying to meet.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary --
QUESTION: -- who is that person, the individual that you mentioned? You said, We're in almost hourly contact with --
CLINTON: With a lot of people.
QUESTION: But not one --
CLINTON: No. A lot of people. Yes.
QUESTION: Madam Secretary, on the Hill, Senator Lugar and others have repeatedly suggested that they thought the president should go to Congress to have a debate over (INAUDIBLE) declaration of war (INAUDIBLE) involving the United States in attacks and with Libya. My question to you is, what do you think of those comments? Do you think that those are -- there's merit to that? And will you describe what's going on now as a war?
CLINTON: No. I think the president made that clear in a meeting with congressional leaders that he held, in outlining all of the reasons why the United States was prepared to act in support of the international efforts on behalf of 1973. And of course, we would always welcome congressional support, but the president's very clear that the United States is acting in a way that is within the existing authorities available to him.
QUESTION: Thank you, guys.
Thank you all. Have a great night in Paris, those of you who get to stay,
VAUSE: We've been listening to the U.S. secretary of state, Hillary Clinton there, speaking after that meeting Paris, addressing a number of questions there. Probably the most notable issue in all of this is the involvement of Arab nations, and Secretary Clinton saying their mere representation in Paris was a statement in and of itself, but --
VAUSE: -- and she will leave these other nations to talk --
WHITFIELD: And it changes --
VAUSE: -- for themselves.
WHITFIELD: -- the diplomatic course of things, as well. Reza Sayah is actually in Cairo. And so Reza, give me an idea whether there's any sort of reception taking place in Egypt there, that this is even taking place, this conversation is taking place in Paris and that already, French jets have been flying over Libya.
REZA SAYAH, CNN INTERNATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, we've talked to Egyptian officials, and they tell us that they will not be involved in implementing a no-fly zone over Libya. But when you listen to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, when you listen to the earlier statement by French President Nicolas Sarkozy, I don't think there's any question that Western powers, like the U.K., France and the U.S. want to convey to the world, want to emphasize to the world that this is not a Western-only operation against an Arab nation. They want to emphasize that Arab nations will take a significant and active role in implementing this no-fly zone. They don't want to create the perception in the international community that this is a group of colonial powers going after an Arab nation.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton did mention the involvement or support of countries like Iraq, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Jordan. But at this point, it's not clear exactly what role they will play, if the role is going to be a supportive role, a symbolic role, or if they're going to send fighter jets over Libya, a more active role. Of course, it was one week ago today, on Saturday, when the Arab League, a bloc of 22 Arab nations, voted unanimously to support a no- fly zone. They called on the U.N. Security Council to implement it. That happened within the past couple of days.
We heard from Amre Moussa, the head of the Arab League, this morning right after he vote on a nationwide referendum here in Cairo, and he said he supports the U.N. resolution for a no-fly zone, but he emphasized again what the Arab League has stated over and over again, that this is not to be a call for an attack on Libya, this is not an invasion -- Fredricka.
WHITFIELD: And I wonder, too, you know, what Secretary Clinton underscored -- she said the primary goal here, the primary objective is to, quote, "protect civilians from their own government." In a place there in Egypt where there was quite the uprising of civilians there trying to make a statement about its own government of Hosni Mubarak and succeeding in that, does that message in any way resonate?
SAYAH: Well, I think what's interesting is that that's her message, but over the past couple of days, we've heard more aggressive rhetoric from French officials, French president Nicolas Sarkozy suggesting that maybe attacking some targets on the ground is a possibility. And it's going to be interesting to see the reaction of the Arab League, some Arab nations that have emphasized that that's not what they want.
SAYAH: Another thing to look for is exactly what type of facilities these Arab nations are going to provide. When you talk about fighter jets, you have the United Arab Emirates that perhaps has the most modern fleet of fighter jets. They have scores of F-16s. You know, are they going to implement those fighter jets? And interesting, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said some Arab nations are going to participate but may not make their participation public.
So again, not clear exactly what type of role these Arab nations will play, so the reaction so far muted here in Egypt and other Arab nations.
VAUSE: Yes, but Reza, when we talk about Egypt -- we know that Egypt is one of the leaders in the Arab world and it's had its own uprising, obviously, in the last couple of months or so. So when you speak with Egyptians there, would you say that they are with the opposition? Are they neutral? There's also been this report in "The Wall Street Journal" that somehow, the Egyptians are supplying weapons to the opposition groups. What are you heard?
SAYAH: Well, they're certainly with the opposition. This is a country that had its own uprising. It's certainly not a country that supports Moammar Gadhafi. But remember, John, this is a country that has its plate full at the moment. Right now, as we're speaking, it's a critical day here in Egypt. They have a nationwide referendum, more than 40 million people eligible to vote for a number of amendments, the first democratic initiative after the fall of former president Hosni Mubarak. SAYAH: So they certainly support this U.N. resolution 1973, support a pushback against Gadhafi, but they're very busy trying to keep stability in this country right now. So crucial things happening in Egypt, as well.
VAUSE: Yes, to put it mildly. Reza, thanks so much. Reza Sayah live for us in Cairo.
WHITFIELD: All right, meantime, while U.S. secretary of state in Paris meeting with other delegates of various nations who are part of this united front now, President Barack Obama is traveling in Brazil, and he spoke moments ago, underscoring what he said -- the need for the people in Libya to be protected.
SAYAH: Our Ed Henry is traveling with the president and joins us now.
So Ed, give us an idea why the president feels it's very important, A, to underscore this message and, B, do it while he's in a South American nation.
ED HENRY, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: Well, Fred, what's interesting and what you did not see when we just took Secretary Clinton's news conference, is right before that, we're told by U.S. officials she was on the phone from Paris with President Obama here in Brasilia. So they realize that while the president's on a Latin American trade mission, essentially, as important as that may be, he obviously needs to project the image that he is on top of this situation and that he is being briefed constantly by top officials, such as Secretary Clinton.
SAYAH: Also important to know what kind of message they are sending substantively. You heard it from Secretary Clinton again and again saying, Look, at one point, the U.S. is not leading here. The U.S. is not taking unilateral action. You don't usually hear that from a U.S. administration. Oftentimes, America is taking the lead. But they are trying to underscore, especially given the experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, that they are not taking the lead in an Arab country, that it's not the U.S. that is leading aggression here. This is an international coalition.
Listen to how many times you heard Secretary Clinton use that very -- those very words, international coalition, the international community, speaking with one voice. It's very the same as what President Obama said. Take a listen to how he put it.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
OBAMA: Yesterday, the international community demanded an immediate cease-fire in Libya, including an end to all attacks against civilians.
Today, Secretary Clinton joined an international coalition of our European and Arab partners in Paris to discuss how we will enforce U.N. Security Council Resolution 1973. Our consensus was strong and our resolve is clear, the people of Libya must be protected. And in the absence of an immediate end to the violence against civilians, our coalition is prepared to act and act with urgency.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
HENRY: You heard the president there, "act, and act with urgency." That was the key moment from his very brief remarks on Libya here in Brazil. And interesting, what he did not mention, anything about U.S. ground troops. We do know, though, that previously, the president has made clear that U.S. ground troops will not be involved in this mission at all, and Secretary Clinton underscored that as well, Fred.
WHITFIELD: Ed Henry traveling with the American president, President Barack Obama, there in Brazil -- John.