WASHINGTON (AFP) – Libya’s embattled leader Moamer Kadhafi appears to have written to the US Congress to praise its criticism of President Barack Obama over NATO raids on Libya, officials said Friday.
In the letter seen by AFP, Kadhafi comments on growing debate in Congress over whether Obama has usurped his constitutional authority by committing US forces to the conflict without authorization by lawmakers.
The letter, which is not addressed to any specific leader in Congress, says Kadhafi has watched “with great interest” the deliberations on Capitol Hill over US participation in the NATO assault on his forces.
“We are confident that history will see the wisdom of your country in debating these issues,” said the letter, signed by Kadhafi as “Commander of the Great Revolution.”
A spokesman for House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner confirmed that Kadhafi’s letter had been received but said it was not possible to verify that it was genuine.
“If authentic, this incoherent letter only reinforces that Kadhafi must go,” said Boehner spokesman Michael Steele.
“There’s no disagreement about that. That’s why so many Americans have questions — which the White House refuses to answer — about the administration committing US resources to an operation that doesn’t make his removal a goal.”
Jon Summers, a spokesman for Democratic Senate Majority leader Harry Reid, also confirmed receipt of a letter but dismissed its contents.
“We’re not spending much time trying to confirm authenticity because we don’t much care what he has to say unless it includes a resignation,” he said.
The letter arrived as senior US Senator Carl Levin emerged from a closed-door briefing with Pentagon officials saying that Kadhafi’s armed forces had been “severely degraded” by NATO’s relentless military campaign.
In the three-page letter, Kadhafi says Libya is counting on the US Congress for “its continued investigation of the military activities of NATO and its allies” in action he said had killed over 700 Libyan civilians.
“Such unauthorized intervention is inappropriate and illegal interference in what is essentially a Libyan civil war.”
“We therefore urge a ceasefire (and) the funding of humanitarian relief and assistance in fostering and furthering accommodation between the internal parties within Libya that are at odds.”
Kadhafi said his government, which has been plagued by defections under the escalating NATO assault, was ready to sit down with opposition figures in peace talks led by the United States in order to “stop the destruction.”
The White House has been under rising pressure from congressional critics demanding details about US goals in Libya and questioning the likely costs and duration of the campaign, in which Washington now has a supporting role.
The House of Representatives last week passed a symbolic resolution chiding Obama for not seeking congressional approval for US involvement and giving him until June 17 to answer those questions and more.
The White House promised answers this week.
Obama spokesman Jay Carney has, however, sidestepped questions on whether the White House would ask for formal congressional authorization for the US military role in the UN-backed campaign now officially run by NATO.
“We have been in extensive consultations with Congress about our mission in Libya, the goals of which, we believe, are widely shared by Republicans and Democrats and House members and senators,” he told reporters.
His comments came as Democratic Senator Jim Webb and Republican Senator Bob Corker, both members of the Foreign Relations Committee, introduced a resolution akin to the House measure that challenges Obama’s Libya policy.
Their bill calls for the administration to offer a detailed justification for US operations, forbids any deployment of US ground troops in Libya, and demands a detailed report within 14 days on US goals and means.
It calls on Obama to request authorization for the continuation of US involvement in NATO activities and on Congress to fully debate the request.