Obama walks fine line on Gadhafi’s future

Santiago, Chile (CNN) — President Barack Obama repeated Monday that Moammar Gadhafi “needs to go,” but he acknowledged the Libyan dictator may remain in power for some time because the allied military mission in North Africa has a more narrow mandate of just protecting innocent civilians.

“Our military action is in support of an international mandate from the Security Council that specifically focuses on the humanitarian threat posed by Colonel Gadhafi’s people,” Obama said at a news conference here.

Obama alluded to the fact that U.N. Resolution 1973 passed on Thursday restricts the U.S. and its allies from seeking regime change and directly ousting Gadhafi from power.

But, he noted, “Now, I also have stated that it is U.S. policy that Gadhafi needs to go.”

But Obama said he’s still hopeful that other “tools” the administration has used, such as freezing billions in Libyan assets, will eventually help the Libyan people push Gadhafi out.

Obama’s comments show the delicate balancing act facing the administration as he tries to adhere to the tight U.N. mandate while knowing the mission is unlikely to be seen as a true success around the world unless Gadhafi goes.

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