Obama, Gadhafi - Reuters - 20.10.11
U.S. President Barack Obama making a statement to the press on the death of Libya's former leader Muammar Gadhafi, from the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, Oct. 20, 2011. Photo by Reuters
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U.S. President Barack Obama said on Thursday that the death of Libyan Leader Muammar Gadhafi marks the end of a long and painful chapter for the Libyan people, and is an opportunity for them to determine their own destiny.

“For four decades, the Gadhafi regime ruled the Libyan people with an iron fist, Libya’s wealth was squandered, but today we can definitively say that the Gadhafi regime has come to an end," Obama said in a statement delivered in the White House Rose Garden.

Obama said that the death of Gadhafi and the final end of his rule shows that brutality and ruling with an iron fist must inevitably come to an end.

The U.S. president said that the last major Libyan regime strongholds have fallen, giving way for a new government that is consolidating the control over the country.

"One of the world's longest-serving dictators is no more," Obama said.

The U.S. president recalled how just one year ago, the notion of a free Libya seemed impossible. "But then the Libyan people rose up, and demanded their rights. And when Gadhafi and his forces started going city to city, town by town to brutalize men, women and children, the world refused to stand idly by," he said.

Obama recounted how the United States, NATO and Arab nations, once they realized the severity of the situation in Libya, did all that it could to protect Libyan civilians from Gadhafi and his forces.

The American President warned that "there will be difficult days ahead," but pledged the U.S. and international community would support the Libyan people in their quest toward a better future.

He thanked the U.S. military for their assistance in the Libyan people's struggle - without putting American soldiers on the ground.

"The courageous Libyan people fought for their own future and broke the back of the regime," Obama said.

"This is a momentous day in the history of Libya. The dark shadow of tyranny has been lifted, and with this enormous promise," the U.S. president added.

Obama called on the Libyan people to create an inclusive, tolerant and democratic Libya that reverses the many wrongs of Gadhafi's dictatorial rule.

"We look forward to the announcement of the country's liberation, the quick formation of an interim government and a stable transition to Libya's first free and fair elections," he said.

The U.S. president paid tribute to the victims of the bombing of Pan-Am flight 103 in 1988, in which all 259 people on board and 11 people on the ground were killed. The U.S. government implicated Gadhafi's regime in the attack, and a Libyan intelligence agent, Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi, was convicted as its mastermind.

"For us here in the United States, we are reminded today of all those Americans that we lost at the hands of Gadhafi's terror. Their families and friends are in our thoughts and in our prayers," Obama said.

The end of a dark chapter

Susan Rice, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations said Gadhafi'd death symbolizes the end of a dark chapter in Libyan history.

"Just weeks after ending a tyrant’s grip on power, the Libyan people have ensured the end of his continued claim to it," Rice said on Thursday.

The U.S. ambassador cautioned that although Gadhafi's iron rule was over, this is not a sure guarantee of a safer, more democratic and prosperous Libya. "The Libyan people will face great challenges in the days ahead. As they do, the United States will stand with them," she said.

Rice pledged that the U.S. would be a partner in Libya's quest to build a new, democratic government that protects the rights of its people. "We will support the international community in providing the expertise and technical assistance that Libyans will need to build a brighter future," she added.