- The Washington Times - Friday, February 25, 2011

The White House dramatically stepped up its response to the crisis in Libya after Americans were evacuated out of the country Friday afternoon, with spokesman Jay Carney saying leader Moammar Gadhafi has “zero” legitimacy.

The administration is crafting unilateral sanctions against the regime and is working with allies to impose unilateral sanctions as well. President Obama will discuss the situation Monday with UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon in Washington.

Saying Mr. Obama’s highest priority is the safety of U.S. citizens, Mr. Carney acknowledged that the president was “certainly willing to take a few days of consternation in the press” over what some called a tepid response as the government sought to make sure all U.S. diplomats and citizens who wanted out of the north African nation were evacuated.

On Friday, the American embassy in Libya was shuttered, Mr. Carney said. A ferry and later a plane carrying U.S. citizens departed the country Friday afternoon.

With the successful evacuations, there was an evident shift in the administration’s language as Mr. Carney went beyond general platitudes about freedom and directly criticized Gadhafi.

“It’s clear that Col. Gadhafi has lost the confidence of his people,” Mr. Carney said. “His legitimacy has been reduced to zero.”

Still, the administration is not calling on the longtime strongman to step down. Mr. Carney said it’s up to the Libyan people to determine their leader.

Mr. Obama broke his public silence on the violence in Libya Wednesday, making a brief public statement from the White House in which he said the crackdowns on protesters “violate international norms and every standard of common decency.”

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