President Barack Obama warned Libya's leaders that the United States and its NATO allies still are considering military options in response to what he called "unacceptable" violence perpetrated by supporters of Moammar Gaddafi.
"I want to send a very clear message to those who are around Colonel Gaddafi. It is their choice to make how they operate moving forward. And they will be held accountable for whatever violence continues to take place," Obama said during remarks in the Oval Office Monday.
Libyan warplanes launched multiple airstrikes Monday on opposition fighters in the second day of a harsh government crackdown to thwart rebels advancing on Gaddafi's stronghold in Tripoli.
Obama with Aussie PM at White House press conference, Monday (Photo: AP)
White House spokesman Jay Carney said a military response was no more likely Monday than it was before the surge in violence. He said the US and its partners are considering a wide variety of military actions, including a no-fly zone, but said deploying ground troops "is not top of the list at this point."
Obama said he has also authorized $15 million in humanitarian aid to help international and non-governmental organizations assist and evacuate people fleeing the violence in Libya. More than 200,000 people have fled the country, most of them foreign workers, creating a humanitarian crisis across the border with Tunisia - another North African country in turmoil after an uprising in January that ousted its longtime leader.
Hundreds if not thousands of people have died since Libya's uprising began, although tight restrictions on media make it nearly impossible to get an accurate tally.
The US and United Nations have imposed sanctions on Gaddafi's regime, and US military forces have also moved closer to Libya's shores to back up demands that Gaddafi step down.
Obama spoke alongside Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard, who is in Washington for meetings.
However, state-controlled news agency RIA Novosti quoted Russia's Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov as saying on Monday that Moscow is against any foreign military intervention in Libya.
"We don't see foreign intervention, moreover the military one, as a means of solving the crisis in Libya. The Libyans have to solve their problems by themselves," Lavrov was quoted as saying.
AP, Reuters contributed to the report
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