- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 27, 2011

Sens. John McCain and Joe Lieberman on Sunday criticized President Obama’s handling of the ongoing revolution in Libya, urging the White House to enforce a “no-fly” zone over the North African country to prevent strongman Moammar Gadhafi from using air power against anti-government protesters.

“It’s time to get tough,” Mr. McCain, Arizona Republican, said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “The president should reverse the terrible decision he made in 2009 on Iran and support the protesters.

“The British prime minister and the French president and others were not hesitant, and they have citizens in that country …. I understand that America’s security and the safety of American citizens is our highest priority. It’s not our only priority. The [anti-government forces] are looking to America to lead,” Mr. McCain said.

Mr. McCain and Mr. Lieberman, speaking from Egypt where the two senators are on a swing through the Middle East, also urged the Obama administration to recognize the opposition in Libya as the provisional government.

“Now is the time for action, not just for statements,” Mr. Lieberman, Connecticut independent, said. “I would also provide them with the arms … to defend themselves.”

Speaking later on NBC’s “Meet the Press,” Mr. McCain said he was not calling for an American military presence on the ground.

“Providing the so-called ‘provisional government’ … with the equipment and material they could use and the no-fly zone I think could send a very strong message,” he said. “I’m not ready to use ground forces or further intervention than that.”

Mr. McCain, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the Obama administration should make it “absolutely clear” that soldiers or mercenaries who commit atrocities or open fire on protesters will face war-crimes charges.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, questioned by reporters as she prepared to fly to Geneva to coordinate a multinational effort to force Col. Gadhafi from office, said the administration is ready to offer “any type of assistance.”

She also warned other African nations not to let mercenaries go to the aid of the longtime dictator, who is using foreign fighters from elsewhere in Africa to kill unarmed civilian protesters.

Anti-government protesters in the past week have seized control of much of the eastern half of Libya from Col. Gadhafi’s forces, but the capital city of Tripoli is still in the dictator’s hands.

The U.N. Security Council voted Saturday to freeze the assets and restrict the travel of Gadhafi and four aides, following on similar sanctions imposed by the Obama administration Friday.

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