President Obama today joined French President Nicolas Sarkozy in calling for Libyan despot Moammar Gadhafi to step down. Obama's long-awaited call for Gadhafi to end his reign of terror came during a phone call with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
"The President stated that when a leader’s only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now," the White House said in a statement.
"The leaders reaffirmed their support for the Libyan people’s demand for universal rights and a government that is responsive to their aspirations, and agreed that Gadhafi's government must be held accountable. They discussed appropriate and effective ways for the international community to respond," the White House said.
Earlier this week, Sarkozy became the first world leader of significance to call for Gadhafi's ouster.
The Obama administration has been ridiculed this week for foot-dragging in response to the violence carried out by Gadhafi's military and hired goons, but a U.S. official late today insisted the White House had its hands tied because of fears of reprisal against Americans who were in Libya.
"The administration had only one majer concern: The Americans stuck in a very hostile place," a U.S. official said.
Most of the remaining Americans cleared out yesterday aboard a U.S.-chartered ferry that arrived in Malta and a U.S.-chartered flight that landed in Turkey.