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Rice: U.S. to push long-term goal of Qaddafi exit

As the U.S. hands over control of the no-fly zone over Libya and the protection of civilians from government forces to NATO, America's ambassador to the United Nations called the mission a success, and said that the long-term goal of seeing Muammar Qaddafi removed from power can be achieved through non-military means.

Appearing on CBS' "The Early Show" Tuesday, Susan Rice said that the mission undertaken by the United States and its allies was very clear: "It was - and is - to protect civilians and to establish a no-fly zone. That's what the Libyan people asked for, that's what the Arab League pressed the Security Council to agree to, that's what we have an international mandate to do, and that's what we've done with great success so far," she told anchor Chris Wragge.

"Tomorrow we'll transition lead responsibility for maintaining that no-fly zone and protection of civilians to NATO and to Arab partners. That is the goal, and that is where we are in accomplishing that goal."

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When asked if the mission could be deemed a success if Qaddafi remains in power, Rice said, "The president was very clear last night that the purpose and the aim was to protect civilians. That is what we were aiming to do."

Rice said that the long-term U.S. point of view is that Qaddafi needs to go and the Libyan people must have the opportunity to determine their own future. "There are non-military means at our disposal to pursue that goal and we'll use [them]: We are using sanctions. We've imposed an arms embargo. We are cutting off all of Qaddafi's sources and funds to his regime, cutting off the flow of mercenaries. We are providing assistance and will continue to provide assistance to the opposition. We are working in London on a political solution. All of these are important elements. ...

"But it may not happen overnight. Recall that in the Balkans after we fought Milosevic in Bosnia and Kosovo, it was many months, even over a year before he stepped down from power. Now, that mission was a success.

"And the mission [in Libya] thus far to protect civilians and establish a no-fly zone has gone as we intended, and tens of thousands of people that would have been overrun by a brutal dictator have been saved, and a region that is fragile is more stable as a result."

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Wragge asked if the coalition efforts to disrupt Qaddfafi's communications, destroy artillery and tanks and ruin supply chains - effectively aiding and providing cover to the rebellion - was proof that the mission has expanded beyond a no-fly zone. Rice said no.

She said when international approval was sought for the U.N. Resolution that mandated the mission, "We were very clear that to protect civilians from Qaddafi's air power, from Qaddafi's tanks, from his artillery, from his marauding forces would require action on the ground, would require not only the establishment of an air-based no-fly zone, but would require stopping those forces moving on cities - that continue to attack civilians as we speak.

"We've made enormous progress in that regard. Many cities that were under threat just a week ago are now safe. But we will need to continue, and our allies will do so in the lead in protecting those civilians."