US tells Kadhafi to step down, abandon threats

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US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi on Saturday to step down instead of brandishing threats of attacks on European civilians.

Clinton, on a visit to NATO ally Spain, demanded Kadhafi deliver democracy rather than menaces and vowed that the military alliance would complete its mission to protect Libyans from his regime.

"Instead of issuing threats, Kadhafi should put the well-being and interests of his own people first and he should step down from power and help facilitate a democratic transition," the secretary of state said.

"The NATO-led mission is on track and pressure on Kadhafi is mounting and the rebels have been gaining strength and momentum. We need to see this through," she told a news conference.

Clinton, speaking alongside Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jiminez, was responding to Kadhafi's warning Friday that the Libyan people could one day strike Europe.

"They could attack your homes, your offices, your families could become legitimate military targets because you have transformed our offices, headquarters, homes and children into military targets which you say are legitimate," Kadhafi said in Tripoli.

"If we decide to do so, we are capable of throwing ourselves on Europe like swarms of locusts or bees."

Spain's foreign minister said NATO would stay united in the face of Kadhafi's warning.

"The answer of Spain and the international coalition is to maintain the unity and determination with which we have been working in the past months," Jimenez said.

"We are working together to protect the Libyan people from the threats and violence that Kadhafi is employing against them. We will stay until we achieve our goals."

NATO intends to carry out United Nations resolutions to protect the Libyan people "and allow the Libyan people to fufill their legitimate aspirations to live in peace", Jimenez said.

The Spanish parliament voted June 20 to indefinitely extend Spain's mandate to take part in the NATO-led operation in Libya.

Spain has sent four F-18 fighter jets and a Boeing 707-refuelling plane to help enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, as well as a frigate, the S7-74 submarine Tramontana and a CN-235 maritime patrol plane to prevent arms flowing into the country.

Spain says it spends about 14.4 million euros ($21 million) a month on the Libya operations.

"We are very grateful for the contribution that Spain is making in the mission in Libya both in the no-fly zone and of course with the arms embargo," said Clinton on the final day of her four-day trip to Hungary, Lithuania and Spain.

"As NATO allies we are always constantly evaluating what our resources are, how best we can use them so that we can ensure that this mission is a success," she said.

NATO leaders have strongly denied accusations by some members of the 15-nation Security Council that their raids have targeted Kadhafi to achieve regime change.

Britain, France and the United States say the attacks have been strictly within Security Council resolutions 1970 and 1973 in March authorising action to protect civilians.

Since Kadhafi seized power in 1969 his regime has been held responsible for a string of bombings against Western targets, including in Europe.

© 2011 AFP

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