Lieberman, McCain: Recognize Libyan opposition as government and arm them

Two senators urged the Obama administration to give “tangible” support to the opposition in Libya in terms of recognizing the opposition as the legitimate government, arming the opposition and establishing a no-fly zone over the North African country.

Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) spoke on CNN’s “State of the Union” Sunday morning from Egypt, as they’ve been on a regional tour over the Presidents Day weeklong recess.

{mosads}”This is a real moment of choice for the international community,” Lieberman said of the bloody crisis in Libya, where dictator Moammar Gadhafi has had forces fire on protesters and deaths are estimated to have exceeded 1,000. “What we’re hearing here in Egypt is the Arab world is watching. Will the world stand by and let a leader like Moammar Gadhafi slaughter his own people?”

Both senators welcomed the unilateral sanctions implemented by President Obama at the end of the week, but stressed that more needs to be done.

That would include recoznizing the provisional government that has taken control of the eastern part of the country and giving them the weapons to fight the armed mercenaries unleashed on demonstrators by Gadhafi.

“Let mercenaries know any acts they commit, they’re going to find themselves in front of a war crimes trial,” McCain said. 

“I would provide them with arms,” Lieberman said, adding that he understood “why the administation hesitated at the beginning but frankly I wish we had spoken out much earlier and clearer against the Gadhafi regime.”

McCain said that the safety of U.S. citizens in Libya, cited as a White House reason for treading carefully, was a high priority, but “it’s not our only priority.”

“The British prime minister and French president were not hesitant and they have citizens in that part of the country,” he said. “America should lead.”

That means taking a stronger stand in favor of the protesters across the Arab world than Obama did with the Iran pro-democracy protests in 2009, McCain said.

“I think [Gadhafi’s] days are numbered,” he said. “The question is how many people are going to be massacred between now and the time he leaves.”

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