Top US Senators warn Libya crisis may be exploited by Qaeda

Top US Senators warn Libya crisis may be exploited by Qaeda Washington: Backing President Barack Obama's call for Muammar Gaddafi to quit, two top US Senators have asked authorities here to work with global community to ensure that the Libyan ruler resigns as soon as possible, warning that a protracted stalemate in the strife-torn country may allow al Qaeda to exploit the chaos.

"It is stated US policy that Gaddafi must go, so now it is critical for the United States, together with our friends and allies, to ensure that he does go as quickly as possible," the Senators John McCain and Joe Lieberman said in a joint statement.

A protracted and bloody stalemate in Libya would not only be an unnecessary humanitarian disaster with the potential to destabilise a critical region, it could also create space for al Qaeda and its extremist allies to exploit the chaos, they said.

"If Gaddafi is able to remain in power, it would send a dangerous message that dictators should respond with brutal violence to the peaceful protest movement for universal rights that is sweeping the region and beyond," the Senators said.

There have been numerous ideas put forward by Gaddafi's opponents in recent days about how the world might help them survive and prevail -- including imposition of a no-fly zone, recognition of a provisional government, provisioning of humanitarian assistance and various forms of security assistance, they noted.

"Which of these we pursue should be determined after urgent consultation with our international partners, including the Arab League, the African Union and NATO, but most of all the Libyan opposition forces themselves (determine it) -- and based on the effectiveness, speed and feasibility of implementation. But we should be prepared to support all of them if they hasten the end of bloodshed."

Noting that the US must not be passive at this critical moment in history, McCain and Lieberman said that from Bosnia to Rwanda, "we know that the international community has in the past been too slow to react to situations like the one unfolding in Libya -- with awful and unspeakable costs in human life. For both moral and strategic reasons, we must not repeat this mistake."

Applauding measures adopted by the US and its partners so far to ratchet up pressure on the Gaddafi regime, including imposition of both unilateral and multilateral sanctions, the regime's eviction from the UN Human Rights Council, its suspension from the Arab League and the referral of its case to the International Criminal Court, the Senators, however, remained deeply concerned about the situation in Libya.

"Despite the measures adopted by the international community, the Gaddafi regime still appears to be entrenched in Tripoli and news reports indicate that Gaddafi's forces are carrying out a campaign of terror against Libyan civilians.

"We are also deeply concerned that Gaddafi's forces have launched offensives, including the use of air power, against the opposition in the liberated areas of Libya," the Senators said.