The U.S. and its allies are not ruling out arming Libyan rebels, though the administration still says its military goal in the country is to protect civilians, says President Obama's U.N. ambassador the day after he spoke to the nation on the country's objectives in Libya.
Susan Rice made the morning show rounds Tuesday to drive home the message President Obama laid out in his address Monday night, and Rice left the door open to tactics like arming the rebel fighters.
"We have not made that decision ... but we have not certainly ruled that out," Rice said on ABC's "Good Morning America."
"There are a variety of ideas and proposals on the table but at the end of the day, [Libyan leader Col. Muammar al-Qaddafi] has to make that decision to step down, and we see yet no indication that he is prepared to do so absent continued pressure from the international community," Rice continued.
The United States voted to refer Qaddafi's humanitarian crimes to the International Criminal Court, a move Rice notes is unusual in its unanimous support. Whether the U.S. and its allies will protest plans that may be under works to grant Qaddafi exile and asylum is less clear.
"How Qaddafi departs and under what circumstances will ultimately be for the Libyan people to decide, but the United Nations Security Council, the United States, and our allies have made very clear that there needs to be accountability and justice for crimes committed," Rice said.
"The expectation both of the Libyan people and the international community is that there needs to be justice for the crimes committed," she continued. "But obviously, should there be an opportunity for some sort of arrangement for Qaddafi to step aside, that's something the Libyan people would have to judge and we will take it as it comes."
Rice bristled at the suggestion that the decision to engage Libya met with dissention among the top tiers within the White House. Reports last week indicated there may have been a split between the diplomatic team led by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the military team headed by Defense Secretary Robert Gates over whether to head up efforts to establish a no-fly zone in Libya. Gates said on Sunday shows this week that Libya, while regionally important, was not of vital strategic interest to the United States.
"All of the members of the president's national security team were united behind the president's decision to take this action," Rice said on NBC's "Today Show."
"Had we not acted, tens of thousands of people would have been killed. We had a request from the Libyan people, from the Arab league, we had an international mandate, we had the ability to do so without putting US forces on the ground ... in a region that is very strategically important to the United States," she added.