WASHINGTON (AFP) – Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi has lost legitimacy and must leave office, US President Barack Obama said Thursday.
“The United States and the entire world continues to be outraged by the appalling violence against the Libyan people,” Obama told a press conference at the White House.
“Going forward, we will continue to send a clear message: The violence must stop. Moamar Kadhafi has lost legitimacy to lead and he must leave.”
Aircraft struck the Libyan town of Brega on Thursday, as a rag-tag army of rebels holding the eastern strategic city manned machine-guns on pick-up trucks after two bombs fell near the local oil refinery.
The attack sparked fears of a new bid by troops loyal to Kadhafi’s regime to recapture the key port, 200 kilometres (125 miles) southwest of the main eastern city of Benghazi.
Libya has been rocked by the revolt against Kadhafi’s four-decade rule which erupted on February 17 following uprisings in Egypt and Tunisia which ousted their long-time leaders.
Obama also said he has authorized the use of US military aircraft to move Egyptian refugees who have fled Libya to Tunisia.
The US was helping “to lead an international effort to deter further violence” and trying to respond quickly to the developing humanitarian crisis, he said.
“Those who perpetrate violence against the Libyan people will be held accountable. And the aspirations of the Libyan people for freedom, democracy, and dignity must be met,” Obama said.
A major European operation was under way Thursday to airlift out of Tunisia thousands of people, most of them Egyptian workers, stranded at the border after fleeing the bloodshed in Libya.
The first French plane involved in the mass evacuation took off from the Djerba airport mid-afternoon, carrying 168 Egyptians to Cairo, following airlifts by British crews that took hundreds out overnight, officials said.