SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - President Barack Obama expressed confidence on Tuesday the United States will be able to transfer control of the Libyan military operation to an international coalition in a matter of days.
Amid negotiations among allies about who will control the operation, Obama told a news conference with El Salvadoran President Mauricio Funes that “I have absolutely no doubt” that an agreement will be found soon.
Obama spoke earlier in the day with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron and the White House said they agreed NATO should play an important role in enforcing the Libyan no-fly zone.
Obama, facing questions at home about the Libyan mission, duration and cost, said the allies should be able to announce soon that they have achieved the objective of creating the no-fly zone.
Pressed to outline the U.S. national security interests in Libya, Obama said the United States moved to support a U.N. Security Council resolution on Libya and avert a potential bloodbath after Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi warned he would show no mercy to people in the rebel stronghold of Benghazi.
Unless Gaddafi permits political reforms and “unless he is willing to step down,” the Libyan leader will present a potential threat to his people, said Obama.
“We will continue to support the efforts to protect the Libyan people. But we will not be in the lead,” he said.
Obama also said he believed the costs of the U.S. involvement in Libya will be factored into the Defense Department’s budget and will not present an added burden to Americans.
“At the end of the day, the American people are going to feel satisfied that lives were saved and people were helped,” he said.
Reporting by Alister Bull, Steve Holland and Caren Bohan; Editing by Doina Chiacu