US State Department Press Briefing on Libya Options

Philip J. Crowley
Assistant Secretary
Daily Press Briefing
Washington, DC
March 8, 2011

QUESTION: Isn’t there a sense of urgency, because apparently Qadhafi is really escalating his attacks? In the last 24 hours, he’s been bombing, using airplanes to bomb. They have been attacking in the surrounding areas. They are taking – retaking some positions and so on. Does that add a sense of urgency?
MR. CROWLEY: Of course, absolutely there’s a sense of urgency here. We have had a sense of urgency since the outbreak of significant violence over two weeks ago.
QUESTION: Have you heard anything about this supposed offer by Qadhafi to the opposition to step down if his family were given certain guarantees that he could leave the country safely?
QUESTION: Have you been told --
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know how credible that is. I mean, we certainly want Qadhafi to step down. As we’ve indicated, if he wishes to leave the country, as far as I know, there’s nothing that’s preventing him from doing so.
QUESTION: But in your outreach to the Libyan opposition, have – specifically have they told you about this offer?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know.
QUESTION: But P.J., let me just follow, so far Mr. Qadhafi is not listening the cries of the people or the repressed or warning from the international community. What I’m asking you is how long will you watch and wait (inaudible) he keeps killing the innocent people by bombs or rockets and so forth and all.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, I mean, Goyal, we have taken a number of steps. We are focused, unlike Mr. Qadhafi, on the welfare of both his people and others who are inside Libya. We are looking to see how we can address the humanitarian situation in Libya. We are reviewing a number of options. There’s been a UN Security Council resolution that the international community has aggressively embraced and is now carrying out. So we’ve done a great deal. There’s lots of other things under consideration, and we will be working on these options even as we monitor developments in Libya.
QUESTION: P.J., on the question of arming the opposition groups, which was raised yesterday, there seemed to be a little bit of discrepancy between your statement and stuff that came out of the White House. My question to you is: What is the U.S. Government position on that? Does the arms embargo forbid it completely or is there some wiggle room? And if there is some wiggle room, where do you find that?
MR. CROWLEY: There’s actually no disconnect at all. There is a UN Security Council resolution that establishes an arms embargo in Libya. The UN Security Council resolution established a sanctions committee. And with any sanctions regime, there’s always the option to go before the sanctions committee and ask for a waiver. So if at some point we decided it was appropriate to take a certain action, there is a procedure in place to either waive or amend the existing UN Security Council resolution. So as Jay Carney said yesterday, we have a number of options available to us, but as a practical matter, as of this moment, we could not arm anyone within Libya today.
QUESTION: But the sanctions committee, as I understand it, every member of that committee has a de facto veto because they all have a vote on it. Given the current makeup of the committee, is there any possibility at all that they would approve such a move?
MR. CROWLEY: Well, again, that is why we’ve done the broad outreach that we’ve done. That’s why we’re working through these issues to try to establish consensus on appropriate actions, and so that we have a consensus, we’re acting as an international community, and we’re expressing our concern about Libya with one voice.
QUESTION: But P.J., in the meantime, he’ll kill another thousand people.
MR. CROWLEY: Goyal, I mean, I understand, which is why we’ve been concerned ever since the outbreak of violence in Libya.
QUESTION: P.J., on this subject of sanctions, do you know whether oil is still being shipped out of Libya? Do you know who might be buying it at this time, and why the UN sanctions don’t target the oil (inaudible)? I think the U.S. sanctions might, actually, but maybe the UN ones don’t. Doesn’t the money just go straight back to Qadhafi?
MR. CROWLEY: I don’t know this current status. I know the price of gasoline has gone up, but beyond that, I don’t know.
QUESTION: Can I have one more, just quick?
QUESTION: And that would be: Does the State Department have a view on the proposal that Mr. Qadhafi will stand aside, providing he and his family are given some kind of amnesty? I know you answered this question just now, but specifically, what would be the State Department’s view on him being given easy access?
MR. CROWLEY: I’ll tell you, let me go back --
QUESTION: An easy exit.
MR. CROWLEY: Certainly, we – to remind regarding economics, that we – that the FinCEN did put out a warning, we did pass in the resolution, and the United States has captured, I believe, $30 billion in proceeds that belonged to the Libyan Government. So anyone who was involved in financial transactions involving Libya and the current government have certain obligations, and that is something that we continue to develop to put pressure on the Qadhafi regime.
Clarify again your second question.
QUESTION: The second question really was: What is the State Department’s view on the possibility of Mr. Qadhafi and his family being given an easy exit? In other words, that he could be forgiven for what he’s done and not brought to trial.
MR. CROWLEY: Well, let’s separate those two things out. We want to see Qadhafi step down, and one would infer that in stepping down it is probably best for him to leave the country, to allow a different government to emerge. That – any departure from Libya does not exempt Mr. Qadhafi, his family, or others from responsibility and accountability for what has occurred.