NATO hits Gadhafi compound, diplomacy heats up

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A Tunisian official said a lieutenant colonel was the latest Libyan officer to desert Gadhafi’s army and flee across the border.

The official told The Associated Press Thursday that the officer took a desert road through the Sahara to cross the border near the town of Ben Guerdane, where he was stopped by a Tunisian national guard unit.

The officer told authorities that he wanted to join his family. They had earlier fled Libya for the Tunisian island of Djerba, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the press.

The officer defected Wednesday, the same day that 46 more soldiers, including officers, sailed boats to the Tunisian port of Ketf and defected, citing the intensified fighting in Libya.

Britain’s prime minister has said that time is running out for Gadhafi’s forces, even as some senior military leaders within NATO have voiced concerns that the mission is straining the alliance’s resources.

“Time is on our side,” British Prime Minister David Cameron told lawmakers Wednesday. “We have got NATO, we’ve got the United Nations, we’ve got the Arab League, we have right on our side. The pressure is building militarily, diplomatically, politically, and time is running out for Gadhafi.”

In Washington, the White House insisted Wednesday that President Barack Obama has the authority to continue U.S. military action in Libya even without authorization from lawmakers in Congress.

Its 32-page report to Congress argues that because the U.S. has a limited, supporting role in the NATO-led bombing campaign in Libya and American forces are not engaged in sustained fighting, the president is within his constitutional rights to direct the mission on his own.

But the report appeared to do little to quell congressional criticism. A spokesman for House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, said the White House was using “creative arguments” that raised additional questions.

Associated Press writer Julie Pace and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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