WASHINGTON – President Barack Obama, breaking his silence on the mayhem in Libya, said Wednesday that the U.S. will consider “the full range of options” to respond and warned dictator Moammar Gadhafi to halt the slaughter of civilians, saying “the entire world is watching.”
Obama denounced the killing of hundreds, and maybe thousands, of Libyan civilians by Gadhafi’s regime as “outrageous,” and said the perpetrators will be held responsible.
He didn’t spell out what steps the U.S. might take, but aides said that Washington, in concert with international partners, will seek to impose new economic sanctions on the regime.
The crisis in Libya and elsewhere across the Middle East is presenting Obama with the biggest foreign policy test of his presidency. Along with the safety of U.S. citizens, his economic and energy policies are at stake.
The price of a barrel of crude oil for April delivery soared above $100 in intraday trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange – the first time since 2008 – before settling up $2.68 to $98.10.
Obama has come under growing pressure to do more to stop Libya in what may be the worst atrocities worldwide since he took office. Opponents of Gadhafi in Libya have told McClatchy that the U.S. and its allies should impose a “no-fly zone” and take other measures to help depose the dictator.
But U.S. officials say he’s been wary of speaking out in a way that would endanger American citizens caught in Libya.
Hundreds of U.S. citizens boarded a State Department-chartered ferry Wednesday at a port in Tripoli. But the ferry’s departure for the islands of Malta was delayed until today because of heavy seas. Other U.S. citizens, working in Libya’s oil fields, remain trapped at remote locations.