Rice: Qaddafi exile an option if he ends killing

Updated 11:23 a.m. ET

U.S. Ambassador the United Nations Susan Rice reiterated Tuesday that Washington's position that the United States would consider exile for Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi, if he puts an end to the violence there, but underscored the importance of Qaddafi and his regime being held accountable for their crimes.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said yesterday that "no option was off the table," including the possibility of Gaddafi seeking refuge in a safe haven, such as in Zimbabwe.

"I was almost rendered speechless by the idea of him and Mugabe together," Clinton told a news conference in Geneva, but that the goal is for an end to the violence, "and if the violence could be ended by his leaving ... that might be a good thing."

"We have joined the Libyan people in demanding that Qaddafi must go -- now -- without further violence or delay," Clinton said Tuesday in testimony before the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. "We are taking no options off the table so long as the Libyan government continues to turn its guns on the Libyan people."

Clinton was before the committee to detail the State Department's fiscal 2011 budget request, but also answered numerous questions from committee members, most of them focusing on the turmoil in the Middle East. She said the U.S. was still actively considering enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya.

On CBS' "The Early Show" this morning, Rice seconded the sentiment. "First of all, most importantly, we want to see the violence end and the people of Libya have the opportunity to determine their own future peacefully and democratically," Rice told "Early Show" anchor Erica Hill. "Muammar Qaddafi is clearly not only slaughtering his own people and acting in a completely unacceptable and outrageous fashion, but he is an obstacle to the achievement of that goal.

"And so one way or the other, it's important that he get off the stage and off the scene, and the people of Libya have the opportunity to determine their own future. Exile may be an option that he looks at, and obviously that's not one that we would rule out," Rice said.

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"But very importantly from the point of view of the United States and the international community is accountability and justice for the crimes that he and those closest to him have committed. The U.N. Security Council on Saturday night referred this situation in Libya to the International Criminal Court. So wherever Qaddafi is, wherever he goes, he will still be subject to that investigation and potentially to international legal justice."

At a White House press briefing Monday, Rice called Qaddafi "delusional" and said he was "unfit to lead." She also said that the United States was reaching out to various opposition groups in Libya but that it was "quite premature" to talk about possible military assistance until the opposition had coalesced into a more organized movement.

"First and foremost, this is for the Libyan people to manage and to decide," Rice said this morning. "The United States - as we do in many countries throughout the world - is in regular contact and consistent contact with a cross-section of Libyan society, civil society leaders, including those that are in opposition to the Qaddafi regime, but a broad cross-section, and we'll continue those contacts.

"But the leaders that emerge in this process the opposition that coalesces is for the people of Libya to decide, not for the United States or any other outsider."

In an interview with Sky, Saif Qaddafi, Muammar Qaddafi's son, responded to Rice's comments.

"First of all she's unfit to call that," he said. "She is not Libyan ... this is not her business. She has no idea about Libya and what's going on here. It's better for her to look after her business in New York, and to look after her business there."

Rice said the U.S. was working with the international community to increase pressure on Qaddafi to "squeeze" him and his regime: "Financially, with seizure already in the last few days in the United States of $30 billion of his ill-gotten gains; militarily, by cutting off the flow of arms to the regime - that was what we did it in the Security Council on Saturday, and the European Union has now joined us in ensuring that there's no more flow of arms into Libya; and making him understand that the international community is not going to tolerate the slaughter of innocents.

"And so we are continuing contingency planning with NATO allies and others for all sorts of options that may be necessary."

Rice also worried that the worsening situation in Libya - in addition to more than 1,000 people killed, the U.N. estimates 100,000 have evacuated the country, creating the possibility of a humanitarian crisis within Libya and along its borders, where Libyans and foreign workers have fled.

Rice said the movement of U.S. warships in the Mediterranean and towards the Suez Canal were part of the preparations necessary to render aid if necessary. "We hope - not a likelihood - that there could be a real humanitarian disaster in Libya as this situation unfolds," Rice said. "And if that is to occur, we and others in the international community would want to be prepared to respond if necessary, promptly and effectively."