U.S. stops short of offering apology to Libya

WASHINGTON, March 3 Wed Mar 3, 2010 2:44pm EST

WASHINGTON, March 3 (Reuters) - The U.S. State Department spokesman said on Wednesday a comment he made about Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi was not meant as a personal attack but he stopped short of offering an apology as demanded by Libya.

"I made an off-hand comment last Friday regarding statements from Libya. It was not intended to be a personal attack," P.J. Crowley told reporters at his daily briefing.

"That said, a call for jihad against any country or individual has the potential to harm and is not something the United States takes lightly," he added, alluding to Gaddafi's call for a "jihad," or armed struggle, against Switzerland.

Asked about Gaddafi's comments, Crowley last Friday drew a parallel with the Libyan leader's 1 hour and 35 minute address to the United Nations last year.

"It just brought me back to a day in September, one of the more memorable sessions of the U.N. General Assembly that I can recall -- lots of words and lots of papers flying all over the place, not necessarily a lot of sense," he said on Friday.

On Wednesday, Crowley tried to smooth ruffled feathers but did not apologize and said the United States reserved the right to comment as it saw fit about the actions of other nations.

"We remain firmly committed to the U.S.-Libyan relationship," the spokesman said, saying the U.S. charge d'affaires, the ranking U.S. diplomat in Tripoli, had been called in by the Libyan government to discuss the matter.

"We look forward to continuing our dialogue with Libya but we will not hesitate to express our concerns about the statements or actions of any country," Crowley said. (Editing by Todd Eastham)

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