Susan Rice: Obama Administration Has Not Ruled Out Military Support for Libyan Rebels

By Susan Jones | March 29, 2011 | 8:45 AM EDT

U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice speaks to reporters after a Security Council meeting on the situation in Libya, Wednesday, March 16, 2011 at United Nations headquarters. (AP Photo)

( – U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice says the Obama administration has not ruled out military support for the Libyan rebels.

“We have not made that decision, George, but we’ve not certainly ruled that out,” Rice told “Good Morning America” anchor George Stephanopoulos on Tuesday morning. She did not answer a question about whether military support would include arming the rebels.

Rice told CBS’s “The Early Show” there are "non-military means at our disposal" to force Gaddafi out.

Those non-military means include cutting off Gaddafi’s resources (money, mercenaries, weapons); “providing assistance to the rebels and the opposition”; and engaging in a diplomatic process, with U.S. allies, “to chart a post-Gaddafi Libya.”

Rice said the military mission in Libya is intended to protect civilians and establish a no-fly zone. “But on a national basis, we obviously have an important interest in seeing Gaddafi step down and the people of Libya have the opportunity to determine their own future,” she told ABC.

Rice said it’s up to the Libyan people to decide how Gaddafi departs, if he chooses not to step down, as President Obama has demanded.

Rice said there is no indication that Gaddafi will step down without continued pressure from the international community. “But how Gaddafi departs and under what circumstances, will ultimately be for the Libyan people to decide,” she said, adding that the U.S. and its allies have made it clear that there must be “accountability and justice” for the crimes he has committed.

Rice conceded that Gaddafi's ouster "may not happen overnight."

Sen. John McCain, also appearing on “The Early Show” Tuesday, said he doesn't believe it's possible "in the short term" to get rid of Gaddafi through non-military means.

"Gaddafi in power is unacceptable. We should use any means to bring him down," McCain said.

(The Associated Press contributed some of the information used in this report.)

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