Obama, Merkel vow to press Libya's Kadhafi
US President Barack Obama said Tuesday after meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel that pressure on Moamer Kadhafi "will only continue to increase" until the Libyan leader steps down.
Merkel said Germany was "committed to the Libyan cause" and the success of the NATO mission, despite her country's abstention from the UN Security Council vote authorizing the air campaign against Kadhafi.
Weeks of air strikes on regime targets have thus far failed to loosen Kadhafi's grip on much of the country, but Obama nevertheless insisted there was an "inexorable trend" towards the strongman's downfall.
"The chancellor and I have been clear. Kadhafi must step down and hand power to the Libyan people, and the pressure will only continue to increase until he does," Obama, standing alongside Merkel, told White House reporters.
The close allies have been divided over international efforts to force Kadhafi from power, and Germany was the only EU or NATO member to withhold its support from the UN Security Council resolution authorizing the use of force.
But Merkel said through a translator that "Kadhafi needs to step down, and he will step down," adding that Germany was taking part in the mission as a NATO member and stepping up its contribution in the Afghanistan war.
"It is a joint will that this NATO mission is successful. It's important for the people in Libya, but it's also important for NATO, for the alliance at large, and here we have one heart that beats with the allies."
Obama said Germany had taken on additional responsibilities in the Afghanistan that have "freed up resources" for the war in Libya.
Kadhafi vowed in an audio message aired by state television on Tuesday that he would never surrender despite a new day of some of the most intensive NATO-led air raids against targets around his Tripoli compound.
Merkel is in Washington at a moment of high sensitivity for her government, as Germany fights a deadly E. coli outbreak that has prompted US officials to inspect all imports of cucumbers, lettuce and tomatoes from Germany and Spain.
© 2011 AFP