BRASILIA, Brazil - As the U.S. began making missile strikes against air defense targets inside Libya, President Barack Obama took to the airwaves to talk about America's actions in the war-torn North African country.
"This is not an outcome the U.S. or any of our partners sought," Obama said from Brazil, where he is starting a five-day visit to Latin America. "We cannot stand idly by when a tyrant tells his people there will be no mercy."
Obama said that embattled Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's continued assault on his own people left the U.S. and its international partners with no other choice. Right now, France, Britain, Canada and Italy are the only announced partners of the international coalition. A Pentagon spokesman said other countries involved wanted to announce their involvement themselves in their own time.
"Today, we are part of a broad coalition," Obama said. "We are answering the calls of a threatened people and we are acting in the interests of the United States and the world."
A senior military official said the U.S. launched air defenses Saturday with strikes along the Libyan coast that were launched by Navy vessels in the Mediterranean. The official said the assault would unfold in stages and target air defense installations around Tripoli, the capital, and a coastal area south of Benghazi, the rebel stronghold.
As of the writing of this report, no actual U.S. airplanes were in the air over Libya. Instead, the Pentagon spokesman said the missile strikes were intended to set up conditions to make it possible for the enforcement of a no-fly zone expected to cover most of the northern parts of Libya.
In his statement from Brazil, Obama declared once again that the United States would not send ground forces to Libya, though he said he is "deeply aware" of the risks of taking any military action.