Washington, March 23 (IANS) Notwithstanding criticism by India and other BRIC nations, the United States has asserted that Western air strikes over Libya were well within the mandate of the UN Security Council resolution.
"First of all, the UN Security Council resolution that passed very clearly called for not just a no-fly zone but actions that would protect the Libyan people," Deputy National Security Advisor for Strategic Communications Ben Rhodes told reporters in Santiago, Chile, Tuesday.
"And at the UN-privately and publicly the United Nations was very clear that we believe that in the absence of actions beyond the no-fly zone, we wouldn't be able to achieve that goal," he said according to a White House transcript.
"In that context, you had Brazil, Russia and China and India abstaining from the resolution - not opposing it," Rhodes said. "And (Russian) President (Dmitry) Medvedev underscored that again today."
The US believed that the resolution itself was very clear, that this was going to include actions that went beyond the enforcement of the no-fly zone to include actions to protect the Libyan people, he said.
In response to a question Rhodes said "the need to protect civilians lasts as long as civilians are under risk of attack in the way in which we've seen them attacked over the course of the last several weeks."
Asked if Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi could have a change of heart, be in power but not pose a threat, the White House aide said the US believed that "Gaddafi should make the calculation that he should leave."
"We believe that he's lost the legitimacy to lead. We believe that the Libyan have lost confidence in him, so that's our continued position with regard to his legitimacy to lead the country," he said.
In Washington, State Department spokesman Mark Toner asked about criticism by India, Russia and China, said: "It's up for them to express their views.
"They're certainly able to do that. I've seen conflicting public statements out of Russia, but it's not for me to characterise them."