Obama Set to Defend U.S. Involvement in Libya

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As NATO prepares to take over the operation in Libya, rebels in the North African nation claimed the action taken by coalition forces has turned the tide in their favor.

Anti-government fighters recaptured Ajdabiya on Saturday before taking control of several other key oil towns. Their next target is located just 300 miles from Tripoli, the stronghold of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi.

"We remove him," one Libyan rebel vowed. "We don't accept him, president again, ever." 

Obama on the Hot Seat

Meanwhile, President Obama is expected make his case before Congress and the American public for involving the U.S. in the Libyan conflict.
    
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates told ABC's "This Week" said Libya did not pose an imminent threat to the U.S.

"It was not a vital national interest to the United States," he explained. "But it was an interest for all of the reasons Secretary Clinton talked about. The engagement of the Arabs, the engagement of the Europeans, the general humanitarian question -- that was at stake."

The president has been facing tough criticism from Washington lawmakers and the American public for not getting approval from Congress to enter the conflict.

"I think there should have been a plan for what our objectives were; a debate as to why this was in our vital interest before we committed military forces to Libya," Sen. Richard Lugar, R-Ind., told NBC's Meet the Press.

Others have criticized the White House for not laying out clear objectives.

"This policy has been characterized by confusion, indecision and delay," Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. said. "On one hand they say it's humanitarian. On the other hand, they say Gadhafi must go."

Humanitarian Crisis Averted?

Nevertheless, the Obama administration continued to stand by its belief that it had to act swiftly to avert a humanitarian crisis.

"I think we have prevented the large-scale slaughter that was beginning to take place, that has taken place in some places," Gates said.

One such tale of atrocity came from a Libyan woman who claimed she was sexually assaulted. She burst into a Tripoli hotel Saturday to tell foreign journalists that pro-Gadhafi forces beat and raped her at a checkpoint.
    
When hotel staff and government minders tried to detain her, a brawl ensued.  Government officials shoved reporters who tried to protect her, dragged her outside, and put her into a car. 
    
Officials later said the woman was drunk and mentally unstable, but promised to investigate her charges.

Meanwhile, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the U.S. would not be intervening in Syria where security forces opened fire on demonstrators in at least six places, killing dozens.

Clinton says the situation there is different since Syrian President Bashar Assad is seen by some in the U.S. as a reformer.

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