VINEYARD HAVEN, Mass. (AP) — The White House said Wednesday there was no evidence to indicate Col. Moammar Gadhafi had left Libya, but a spokesman said it was clear his hold on power had slipped even as loyalists waged scattered battles across Tripoli.
Briefing reporters who accompanied President Obama on his vacation to Martha's Vineyard, Mass., White House deputy press secretary Josh Earnest also said officials are closely monitoring the status of Col. Gadhafi's weapons stockpiles amid concerns that his huge caches of arms could fall into the wrong hands.
At the Pentagon, Col. David Lapan said the United States is keeping an eye on Libya's known chemical weapons storage sites and believes they are secure, but he would not elaborate
With hundreds of millions of dollars spent on the U.S. role in Libya, even without troops on the ground, Mr. Earnest sought to emphasize that the U.S. has a tangible interest in standing with the Libyan people as they attempt a transition to democracy. He declined to give a time line for U.S. involvement in the North African nation.
"There are difficult days ahead; there are difficult months ahead; there are difficult years ahead," Mr. Earnest said.
"It's not a safe place right now," he added.
In Tripoli, the capital, pro-regime snipers cut off the road to the airport while other loyalist fighters launched repeated attacks on Col. Gadhafi's captured private compound. Opposition fighters claimed they had most of Tripoli under control, but a defiant Col. Gadhafi vowed from hiding that he would fight on "until victory or martyrdom."
Mr. Earnest said Mr. Obama was briefed Wednesday morning on the developments. He also said the U.S. was working to unfreeze $1.5 billion in assets of Col. Gadhafi's regime to help the opposition Transitional National Council.
Mr. Earnest said the U.S. remains in close contact with the rebels. "We are encouraged by the way they have conducted themselves so far," he said.
The U.S., which led airstrikes against Gadhafi forces in March before handing off the mission lead to NATO, also is providing humanitarian aid.
Col. Lapan said the U.S had dropped two bombs in Libya over the past 24 hours, including one from a Predator drone. He had no details on the targets.
Associated Press writers Robert Burns in Washington and Darlene Superville in Vineyard Haven contributed to this report.