(Updates with lawsuit by lawmakers rejected in 21st paragraph.)
Oct. 20 (Bloomberg) -- President Barack Obama said the death of deposed Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi marks the end of a “long and painful chapter” for the people of Libya and gives them the opportunity to determine their own destiny.
“Today we can definitively say that the Qaddafi regime has come to an end,” Obama said in remarks in the White House Rose Garden. Speaking to the Libyan people, Obama said, “You have won your revolution.”
Libya now must travel “a long and winding road to full democracy,” he said, adding “there will be difficult days ahead.”
Obama committed the U.S. to a NATO-led campaign in Libya in March, a move that at the time drew criticism from some members of Congress. He said today the demise of Qaddafi’s regime vindicates his strategy of bringing together allies to meet the objective of supporting the Libyan rebels without putting U.S. troops on the ground. It also follows other U.S. successes overseas, he said.
“This comes at a time when we see the strength of American leadership across the world,” Obama said. “We’ve taken out al- Qaeda leaders, and we’ve put them on the path to defeat. We’re winding down the war in Iraq, and have begun a transition in Afghanistan.”
“And now, working in Libya with friends and allies, we’ve demonstrated what collective action can achieve in the 21st century,” he said.
Reports on Ground
Obama didn’t specifically confirm Qaddafi’s death, citing reports by the Libyan government. White House press secretary Jay Carney said the U.S. doesn’t have personnel on the ground to make a direct assessment.
“We have confidence in the reports that Qaddafi is dead,” Carney said in a briefing after the president spoke.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said in Islamabad today that Qaddafi’s demise “offers a new opportunity for Libya to move forward.”
During a stop in Tripoli Oct. 18, Clinton urged the transitional leadership and Libyans who supported the rebel cause to refrain from vigilantism and to use the justice system, not the streets, to deal with those accused of atrocities during the eight-month rebellion.
Rebuilding Libya’s economy and political system likely will take years, said Anthony Cordesman, an analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a policy center in Washington. The path for Libya’s transitional government in trying to unite tribes and build trust in government remains difficult and the new leadership will need assistance, he said.
“People and leaders are important but Libya faces at least half a decade of coming to grips with a lack of institutions, effective governance,” Cordesman said. “It’s going to take a lot of U.S. and international help and aid to ensure this doesn’t turn into either failure or another authoritarian government.”
Libya holds Africa’s largest proven crude oil reserves and production was disrupted by the revolt that broke out in February. The collapse in exports contributed to prices rallying as much as 34 percent in London earlier this year. The government has said it aims to restore production to about 1.7 million barrels a day within 15 months.
Crude oil for November delivery declined 81 cents to settle at $85.30 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Clinton, who was the most senior U.S. official to visit Libya since the revolt that dislodged Qaddafi after 42 years in power, said in Tripoli that the U.S. would provide as much as $10 million to help find and secure missing weapons, including shoulder-fired missiles that can bring down aircraft.
The U.S. also will encourage development of industries beyond oil and provide veterans of the conflict with medical care and education, she said. To date, the U.S. has provided more than $135 million in assistance to Libyan civilians and the rebel council, according to State Department figures.
When the campaign got under way, Democrat Obama was criticized by some Republicans in Congress for limiting the U.S. military to an air support role for the Libyan rebels with NATO running the campaign, while other lawmakers, including some Democrats, questioned whether the U.S. should be involved at all.
War Powers Debate
The White House on June 15 submitted a report to Congress arguing that the War Powers Act doesn’t apply to the campaign led by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization because U.S. forces are mainly providing a support role and aren’t engaged in combat with hostile forces.
House Speaker John Boehner said at the time that the administration’s rationale for committing the U.S. wasn’t adequate and that it “doesn’t pass the straight-face test.” The Ohio Republican said lawmakers would consider options including denying funding for the U.S. mission.
The House ultimately refused to authorize continued U.S. involvement while deciding against restricting funds.
A group of 10 lawmakers, including Democratic Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and Republican Representative Ron Paul of Texas -- who is seeking his party’s presidential nomination -- filed a lawsuit claiming military operations in Libya were illegal because Congress hadn’t authorized funding or approved a declaration of war.
U.S. District Judge Reggie Walton ruled today that the lawmakers failed to demonstrate that they had the right to sue executive branch officials, either as members of Congress or as taxpayers. The opinion made no reference to events in Libya.
Obama’s strategy avoided American casualties and, at a price tag of $1.1 billion as of Sept. 30, cost less than three days at the peak of the Iraq conflict, based on data from the Congressional Research Service. Still that surpassed estimates sent to Congress earlier this year that the operations would cost $800 million by that point.
“The president believes that the actions taken by his administration and by NATO have helped the Libyan people reach this day,” Carney said.
--With assistance from Roger Runningen, Viola Gienger and Tom Schoenberg in Washington and Indira Lakshmanan in Islamabad. Editors: Joe Sobczyk, Ann Hughey.
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