Obama sees 'inexorable' pressure on Kadhafi
US President Barack Obama said Tuesday that NATO's mission in Libya was forging "inexorable" advances which meant it was only a matter of time before defiant Moamer Kadhafi's departure.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel, at Obama's side in the White House, also said Kadhafi would go soon, and said Germany wanted NATO's assault to succeed despite abstaining in a UN Security Council vote authorizing the operation.
But Kadhafi vowed in an audio message broadcast just before the two leaders appeared at a joint press conference, that he would never surrender and promised to fight on, despite NATO bombs raining down on targets in Tripoli.
Weeks of air strikes on regime targets have thus far failed to force Kadhafi out, but Obama nevertheless insisted that he was on borrowed time after a brutal four-decades-long rule.
"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 president, criticized by some domestic opponents for allowing Britain and France to take the lead in the NATO mission after an initial US blitz, argued that the effort had already achieved substantial goals.
He said that the port city of Benghazi, where a massacre had been feared, was now free from the threat of the Libyan regime and that Kadhafi forces had been pushed back from the city of Misrata.
"What you're seeing across the country is a inexorable trend of the regime forces being pushed back, being incapacitated.
"You're seeing defections, often times of some very high-profile members of the Kadhafi government, as well as the military.
"I think it is just a matter of time before Kadhafi goes."
Merkel underlined that Germany was "committed to the Libyan cause" and the success of the NATO mission.
The 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 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."
Smoothing over the differences between the two sides over Libya, Obama praised Germany for taking 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.
© 2011 AFP