Washington: In a rare public rebuke of two of Washington's closest allies, President Barack Obama has hit out at British Prime Minister David Cameron and former French leader Nicolas Sarkozy over their roles in Libya after the fall of the Kadhafi regime.
Cameron became "distracted" and Sarkozy wanted to promote his country during the 2011 NATO-led military intervention in Libya, Obama said in an interview with The Atlantic magazine published today.
British daily The Independent today slammed Obama's comments as "an unprecedented attack on a British leader by a serving US president," while The Times called the criticism "extraordinary."
In the extensive interview, Obama discussed the conditions surrounding the British and French-led bombing campaign that led to the fall of Moamer Kadhafi's regime.
Obama said when he considered what went wrong in Libya, "there's room for criticism because I had more faith in the Europeans, given Libya's proximity, being invested in the follow-up."
Cameron stopped paying attention soon after the military operation, he said, becoming "distracted by a range of other things."
Despite the criticism, a US National Security Council spokesman insisted that Cameron remained a "close partner" of Obama's.
"Prime Minister Cameron has been as close a partner as the president has had, and we deeply value the UK's contributions on our shared national security and foreign policy objectives which reflect our special and essential relationship," Edward Price told British media.
"With respect to Libya, the president has long said that all of us -- including the United States -- could have done more in the aftermath of the Libyan intervention."
US ambassador to Britain Matthew Barzun also tweeted that relations between the two countries remained "special," a term that Britain has been desperate to re-emphasize since Winston Churchill coined it 70 years ago.
"Our relationship is essential. It is special. True yesterday, true today and will be true tomorrow," he wrote.