Skip to main content

Obama works to shore up Arab support for Libyan airstrikes

By Ed Henry, CNN
Click to play
Next steps for Obama on Libya
  • Top White House aides reach out to Arab League officials
  • They want to make clear coalition airstrikes are within bounds of U.N. resolution
  • Obama personally calls King Abdullah of Jordan

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil (CNN) -- President Obama and his national security team worked behind the scenes Sunday to try to shore up support within the Arab world for the military mission in Libya, with top White House aides reaching out to officials of the Arab League to insist the bombing does not exceed the scope of a U.N. mandate, according to senior administration officials.

The senior officials described the Obama team's phone calls as making clear to the Arab League that bombing Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's air defenses falls within the U.N. Security Council resolution's scope of imposing a no-fly zone and taking "all necessary measures" to stop the dictator from attacking civilians in his own country.

"We don't believe this goes beyond the resolution," said one senior administration official in describing the White House's message to the Arab League.

The lobbying came after Arab League officials complained earlier Sunday that airstrikes by the U.S. military and other allies inside Libya exceeded the scope of merely instituting a no-fly zone.

The senior officials noted that Obama also personally called King Abdullah of Jordan as part of the effort to keep key Arab allies on board with the mission.

Clinton's voice key on Libyan policy

The Obama phone call was in addition to calls made by Vice President Joe Biden on Sunday to leaders in Algeria and Kuwait.

Meanwhile, senior officials say they believe the allied campaign is hitting Gadhafi's military hard.

"We've essentially made substantial progress in wiping out his air defenses," one official said.

The official added that the White House is still confident that the administration will be able to hand off "later this week" much of the mission to allies, who will actually enforce the no-fly zone after the initial U.S. bombing clears the way for it.

Part of complete coverage on
'Sons of Mubarak' in plea for respect
Pro-Mubarak supporters believe Egypt's former president is innocent of charges of corruption and killing protesters.
Timeline of the conflict in Libya
Fighting in Libya started with anti-government demonstrations in February and escalated into a nationwide civil war.
Who are these rebels?
After months of seeming stalemate, Libyan rebels declared they were moving in on Tripoli. But who are they?
Why NATO's Libya mission has shifted
Six months and more than 17,000 air sorties after it began, NATO's Operation Unified Protector in the skies over Libya grinds on.
Interactive map: Arab unrest
Click on countries in CNN's interactive map to see the roots of their unrest and where things stand today.
Send your videos, stories
Are you in the Middle East or North Africa? Send iReport your images. Don't do anything that could put you at risk.
Libya through Gadhafi's keyhole
Behind the official smiles for the cameras some people in Libya's capital are waiting for the rebels, reports CNN's Ivan Watson.
How Arab youth found its voice
Tunisia's Mohamed Bouazizi not only ignited a series of revolts but heralded the first appearance of Arab youth on the stage of modern history.