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Wednesday
Apr272011

US Ambassador to Libya on Casualty Numbers and Recognition for TNC

MAHMUD HAMS/AFP/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- U.S. Ambassador to Libya Gene Cretz says it is hard for the U.S. to determine right now how many civilian casualties there have been in Libya since Moammar Gadhafi launched a military campaign against rebel forces.

He said officials at the State Department have seen “figures ranging from 10[,000] to 30,000.”  But, he added, “I don't think that we're probably not going to get an accurate number until we really get, you know, more hands-on experience on the ground. It's just very difficult,” he stressed. “We keep getting reports, even from contacts in Tripoli and in the West, of bodies that have been uncovered, you know, on the beach. We just have no sense of the scale of this thing until it's over."

He said that Gadhafi forces continue their indiscriminate shelling attacks in Misrata and the western mountain areas where they’ve surrounded towns in an apparent attempting to starve civilian populations into submission.

Cretz opened up a can of worms by saying in his opening remarks that Chris Stevens, the U.S. envoy to the Transitional National Council (TNC) in Benghazi, had assessed that the TNC “as we had previously reported, is a political body which is worthy of our support.”  That led to a flurry of questions that if that was the case, why wasn’t the U.S. recognizing them as the official government like the French, Qataris and the Italians have done.

Cretz said the relationship with the TNC was complex, but that recognition was being studied as a legal matter. He also said that the president has not ruled anything out, though he proceeded to detail a series of other things that could be done besides formally recognizing the TNC as a government, such as freezing assets or suspending oil sales.  At one point he said recognition wouldn’t really have that great of an impact, but he said “as time goes on, we are gaining at least a bit more confidence in the TNC.”

Cretz said efforts continue to try to get Gadhafi to leave power by using as many tools as possible “to get him to realize that the game is up and he’s got to go.”  He said those efforts are moving in the right direction. That  includes efforts to break up Gadhafi’s inner circle, which he described as not “the tightest inner group.”

He said contacts with some of these officials indicate they might be willing to leave the regime, but aren’t doing it for fear of the safety of their families in Tripoli.  He said the effort to remove Gadhafi is a deliberative process that he hopes won’t become a slow process. He indicated that attacks on command and control sites should be a signal to Gadhafi’s inner circle that they’re on the wrong side.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio 







ABC News Radio