US lawmakers rally behind Obama on Libya

"I support the President's announcement today. Though I have been calling for a 'no fly zone' for weeks, we are now moving forward, and America is demonstrating leadership," said Chairman of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Mike Rogers.

Rogers along with other top Congressional leadership were briefed by Obama on the US policy on Libya.

Among those who attended the meetings were the Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer, Senators Carl Levin, Dick Lugar, Saxby Chambliss, Mitch McConnell, John Kyl, John Kerry and Diane Feinstein.

Speaker of the US House of Representatives John Boehner; Majority Leader Eric Cantor; Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Congressmen, Buck McKeon, Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Howard L. Berman also attended the Situation Room meeting.

"It is in America's strategic interest to support regional stability, and to prevent the use or diversion of Libya's large chemical weapons stockpile while allowing those who aspire to be free a chance to have their legitimate grievances heard," Rogers said.

"I was glad to hear that the President's plan puts the US military in a supporting role, and that no US ground troops will be deployed," he said.

After the meeting, Obama asked the Libyan leader to immediately stop his troops from advancing on Benghazi and pull them back from other cities and establish water, electricity and gas supplies to all areas.

Obama described these terms as non-negotiable, but said the US would not deploy ground troops in Libya and would not resort to use of force beyond a well-defined goal, specifically the protection of civilians in Libya.

"President Obama's stern ultimatum to Gaddafi is the right message. There must be a full cessation of hostilities immediately," said Senator John Kerry, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

"The bottom line remains that Gaddafi has lost all legitimacy and determined international pressure will remain imperative to ensure that the will of the Libyan people prevails," he added.

Commending Obama for his leadership and prudence on how US will proceed in regards to Libya and work in concert with European and Arab allies to address the crisis, Pelosi said: "The strong action taken by the United Nations and the Arab League should leave no doubt in Gaddafi's mind that the horrific brutality against his own people will not be tolerated and cannot continue."

Supporting Obama's decision to work with US allies to enforce a no-fly zone and take other actions to protect Libyan civilians, Reid said that the President presented Gaddafi with a clear choice and outlined the very serious consequences of ignoring the demands of the people of Libya and the international community.

"Together with our allies, we should work to ensure that Gaddafi's transition out of power is swift, and that the people of Libya do not suffer any more than they already have," he said.

House Democratic Whip Steny Hoyer said the UN has rightfully authorized international action to preclude further bloodshed, and the Arab League has also called for action in light of Gaddafi's threats and actions.

"The President has indicated that the US will assist international efforts to protect civilians and end the violence. I support this action and have urged the Administration to take a supportive role in this effort. I firmly believe that our European allies and the members of the Arab League must take the leading role," he said.

Congressman Adam Smith, Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee, noted that it is important that Congress plays a substantial role in any decision that might lead to action by the United States military.

"Committing US troops to a conflict abroad is not a decision that should be made lightly. At this point in time, it is unclear how or if the President intends to utilize US military force, but it will be critical for the administration to keep Congress closely informed as it makes those decisions," Smith said.

Congressman Ron Paul, a member of the House Foreign Relations Committee, however, opposed the Obama's decision to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.

In a statement Paul said that this the action is an act of War.
He claimed that the no-fly zone is unconstitutional because Congress has not authorized it, and the US cannot afford the financial burden of more military action in the Middle East. 

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