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Qaddafi asks Obama in letter to end airstrikes

President Barack Obama and Muammar Qaddafi
President Barack Obama speaks about the situation in Libya in the Grand Foyer of the White House in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 23, 2011, left, and Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi at the Quirinale Palace on June 10, 2009 in Rome, Italy. Getty Images

(CBS/AP) Despite complaints from Libya's rebels that the NATO campaign is not doing enough to protect civilians, the coalition airstrikes appear to be having some effect on strongman Muammar Qaddafi.

Qaddafi appealed in a letter to President Barack Obama to halt the NATO operation to protect opponents of his regime. The letter, obtained by The Associated Press, implores Obama to stop what he called an "unjust war against a small people of a developing country."

A U.S. official confirms that the U.S. considers the rambling three-page letter to be authentic.

"You are a man who has enough courage to annul a wrong and mistaken action," Qaddafi wrote in the letter that was sent to the State Department and forwarded immediately to the White House, according to a U.S. official who had seen the letter. "I am sure that you are able to shoulder the responsibility for that."

"To serving world peace ... Friendship between our peoples ... and for the sake of economic, and security cooperation against terror, you are in a position to keep NATO off the Libyan affair for good," Qaddafi wrote.

Full text of Qaddafi's recent letter to Obama

White House press secretary Jay Carney confirmed that the White House received a letter from Qaddafi.

As for Qaddafi's appeal for a cease-fire, Carney appeared to dismiss it for now.

"The conditions the president laid out are clear - cessation of violence, withdrawal from the cities and menacing position Qaddafir forces taken," Carney told reporters traveling with Obama to New York.

Addressing Obama as "our son" and "excellency," Qaddafi said his country had been hurt more "morally" than "physically" by the NATO campaign and that a democratic society could not be built through missiles and aircraft. He also repeated his claim that his foes, particularly those now in control of the city of Benghazi, are members of al-Qaida.

The letter, in stilted and formal English, includes numerous spelling and grammatical errors.

"Our dear son, Excellency, Baraka Hussein Abu oumama, your intervention is the name of the U.S.A. is a must, so that Nato would withdraw finally from the Libyan affair," Qaddafi wrote. "Libya should be left to Libyans within the African union frame."

Qaddafi said his country had already been unfairly subjected in 1986 to "a direct military armed aggression" ordered by then-President Ronald Reagan, who famously called the leader the "Mad Dog of the Middle East," as well as earlier rounds of U.S. and international sanctions.

Although he listed a litany of complaints, Qaddafi said he bears no ill will toward Obama.

"We have been hurt more morally (than) physically because of what had happened against us in both deeds and words by you," he wrote. "Despite all this you will always remain our son whatever happened. We still pray that you continue to be president of the U.S.A. We Endeavour and hope that you will gain victory in the new election campaigne."

The letter, dated April 5, 2011 in Tripoli is signed by "Mu'aumer Qaddaffi, Leader of the Revolution."

NATO assumed command of the aerial onslaught on Libya a week ago, conducting 851 sorties in the first six days. Although the alliance does not normally release information on the number of airstrikes on Qaddafi's forces, it said warplanes had bombed 14 targets on Monday. Canadian Lt. Gen. Charles Bouchard -- who commands the Libyan operation from his headquarters in Naples, Italy -- estimated that 30 percent of Qaddafi's military capacity has been destroyed since the airstrikes began March 19.

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This is not the first time Qaddafi has tried to appeal directly to Mr. Obama. In mid-March, at the outset of the NATO campaign, Qaddafi sent this letter:

"To our son, the honorable Barack Hussein Obama: As I have said before, even if, God forbid, there were a war between Libya and America, you would remain my son and I would still love you. I do not want to change the image I have of you. All of the Libyan people are with me, ready to die, even the women and children. We are fighting nothing other than al-Qaida in what they call the Islamic Maghreb. It's an armed group that is fighting from Libya to Mauritania and through Algeria and Mali. ... If you had found them taking over American cities by the force of arms, tell me what you would do?"