Obama on Libya: "This is not over yet"

President Barack Obama speaks about Libya, Monday, Aug. 22, 2011, in Chilmark, Mass., on Martha's Vineyard, Mass.
AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Updated at 3:00 p.m. ET

As Libyan rebels closed in on the regime of strongman Muammar Qaddafi today, President Obama warned that the situation in the North African nation remains "fluid" and "this is not over yet."

"But this much is clear, the Gadhafi regime is coming to an end and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people," Mr. Obama said.

As the regime collapses, there's still fighting on the ground, as well as reports of regime elments that threaten keep fighting, Mr. Obama said. Qaddafi, who has ruled for more than four decades, has the opportunity to reduce the bloodshed "by explicitly relinquishing power to the people of Libya," he said.

Mr. Obama said the international community has worked with the National Transitional Council to prepare for a post-Qaddafi Libya for months and will continue to work with the group.

"As the leadership of the TNC has made clear, the rights of all Libyans must be respected," Mr. Obama said, using the preferred U.S. acronym for the group. "True justice will not come from reprisals and violence. It will come from reconciliation and a Libya that allows its citizens to determine their own destiny. In that effort, the United States will be a friend and a partner."

Libyan rebels claimed to be in control of most of Tripoli on Monday, and three of Qaddafi's sons were reportedly in custody.

Qaddafi's whereabouts are still unknown, but White House and Pentagon officials said today they believe he's still in the country. Clashes continued at Qaddafi's longtime command center, known as Bab al-Aziziya, and Al Arabiya Television reports that, according to rebel sources, NATO warplanes would start bombing the compound today.

The president was briefed this morning by Deputy National Security Advisor John Brennan and held a conference call with his National Security Council shortly before speaking today.

Photos: The battle comes to Tripoli
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Principal Deputy Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters earlier that Mr. Obama's leadership in the conflict has been "robust." When asked whether Mr. Obama deserved credit for rebel successes in the country, the spokesman replied, "The strategy that we have put in place in terms of closely coordinating with NATO allies and other partners in the region and coordinating closely with the [National Transitional Council] has yielded a lot of favorable results there."

The president chose to take limited action in Libya by providing support to a NATO-led mission, and it's up for debate as to whether the advancement of the rebels can be chalked up as a political victory for Mr. Obama. Some of the president's 2012 Republican rivals today are expressing cautious optimism about the situation.