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McCain calls for no-fly zone over Libya, criticizes Obama's handling of situation

In some of his harshest comments so far, Senator John McCain (R-Ariz.) criticized the Obama administration Tuesday for its handling of tumultuous situations in Libya, Egypt and the Middle East.

McCain also shot down the argument that the U.S. could not afford to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.

"Of course we have to have a no-fly zone," McCain said at an event hosted by the Atlantic Council in Washington on Tuesday. "We are spending over $500 billion dollars, not counting Iraq and Afghanistan, on our nation's defense. Don't tell me we can't do a no-fly zone over Tripoli."

"I love the military, I love it, it's been my life, but they always seem to find reasons why you can't do something rather than why you can," he added.

Testifying before the House Appropriations Defense subcommittee Wednesday, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates addressed the possibility of a no-fly zone. "A no-fly zone begins with an attack on Libya to destroy the air defenses," Gates said.

Gates and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have consistently said that all options are on the table in dealing with Muammar Qaddafi.

McCain described the Libyan leader's days as "numbered." "The question is, can we shorten those number of days to save lives? To save people's lives because it's clear he is going to kill whoever he can in order to stay in power."

The longtime senator and 2008 Republican presidential nominee was asked if he was disappointed in the administration's handling of recent foreign affairs situations. "Yes I think so," McCain said, characterizing the Obama administration's approach in the Middle East as "behind."

Meanwhile, another prominent Republican, former Minnesota governor and potential 2012 presidential candidate Tim Pawlenty, also criticized President Obama for not condemning Qaddafi.

"A known psychopath is gunning down his own people in the streets of Libya, and the leader of the free world is muted for the better part of a week," Pawlenty told The Wall Street Journal Tuesday.

McCain just returned from a 12-day trip across the Middle East and North Africa, which included stops in Egypt, Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel and the West Bank. McCain was joined by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.).

"The number one hero in Tunisia is a guy named Mark Zuckerberg," McCain commented in a discussion on Mr. Obama's role in the region. "If he [Zuckerberg] would come to Tunisia, he would be a national hero." Hundreds of thousands of protesters were mobilized via Facebook.

The Atlantic Council is a non-partisan organization that promotes U.S. leadership and engagement in international affairs. At the event, McCain was also presented with the Order of Merit of the Republic of Poland by Minister of Foreign Affairs H.E. Radoslaw Sikorski.

Christine Delargy is an associate producer for You can read more of her posts here. You can also follow her on Twitter here: