- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 1, 2011

WASHINGTON (AP) — Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, on Tuesday urged defiant Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi to consider exile, saying she’s worried the North African nation could plummet into a “humanitarian disaster.”

“It’s important that he get off the stage,” Ms. Rice said in an interview on CBS’ “The Early Show.”

She said that exile “may be an option that he looks at,” but the ambassador added that not even that scenario would inoculate the iron-fisted ruler from possible prosecution “for the crimes that he and those closest to him have committed.”

White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters Monday that getting Col. Gadhafi to flee Libya “would be a quick option, and it would comport with our desire to see him step down.”

Ms. Rice spoke as U.S. warships deployed closer to Libya to support potential humanitarian and military missions, and as Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton continued to meet with U.S. allies in Geneva. Under discussion was a no-fly zone over Libya to protect rebel-held areas from attack by Gadhafi forces.

Mrs. Clinton was appearing later Tuesday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

Ms. Rice told reporters at the White House on Monday that a no-fly zone was under “active” consideration. However, Russia’s foreign minister, Sergey Lavrov, rejected the idea as “superfluous” and said countries should focus on implementing sanctions imposed late Saturday by the U.N. Security Council.

Those included an arms embargo, asset freezes and travel bans for Col. Gadhafi, his family and associates.

U.S. asset freeze imposed on Friday already has netted $30 billion worth of resources, the Treasury Department reported.

Ms. Rice told reporters on Monday she was astonished by Col. Gadhafi’s interview with American and British reporters in which he denied his forces are attacking protesters and maintained the Libyan people love him. She said such comments — while he “slaughters” his own people — show how unfit he is to lead his country.

“One has to question his grip on reality,” she said Tuesday on NBC’s “Today” show.