In a White House press briefing on Monday, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice called Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi "delusional" and said he was "unfit to lead."
When asked about Qaddafi's recent assertion that the people of Libya supported him, Rice said he "sounds, just frankly, delusional," and said his willingness to make light of the situation there "while he is slaughtering his own people... underscores how unfit he is to lead and how disconnected he is from reality."
Rice, speaking after President Obama's meeting with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, praised what she described as an "unusual and important" sense of urgency in the U.N. Security Council's response to the crisis in Libya, where thousands of citizens have formed a mass protest demanding Qaddafi's ouster.
Noting the U.N. Security Council's recently-enacted sanctions on Libya - including an arms embargo, travel bans, and the freezing of $30 billion in Libya's foreign assets - Rice emphasized that the White House was working closely with the U.N. security council to "determine that these sanctions work, and work as quickly as possible."
Reiterating Mr. Obama's message that "now is the time for Qaddafi to step aside," Rice added that the United States was involved in talks with NATO about the possibility of enacting a no-fly zone over Libya.
She noted, too, that the United States was reaching out to various opposition groups in Libya - but said she thought it would be "quite premature" to talk about possible military assistance until the opposition had coalesced into a more organized movement.
Rice said that the U.S. government "has begun to mount a very robust human response that will include resources to the various concerned agencies," but emphasized that it was up to Libyans to determine their future.
"It would be wrong of us to sit here with a roadmap," she said. "There's a serious institutional building challenge that exists in Libya, but in Libya as elsewhere in the region we believe there are universal rights that need to be acknowledged and respected."
"We will continue to be very supportive of their efforts to achieve the universal rights and the freedoms and the opportunities that they are seeking," she said.