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All Libya options open, says Obama

Barack Obama has insisted he is considering every intervention option in Libya, including military might, along with America's allies.

And he sent a message to Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi, declaring: "Step down from power and leave."

Wary that Libya's bloody crisis could become a humanitarian disaster, the US president made clear he had not ruled out establishing a no-fly zone to prevent Gaddafi's air forces from bombing rebels.

Mr Obama's broad assurance came a day after his defence chief Robert Gates said bluntly that a no-fly zone would amount to an act of war and warned about too much "loose talk" of US military intervention in Libya.

"I don't want us hamstrung," Mr Obama said in defending his approach. But the president also made clear he did not intend to act without the consent of international peers and that the emphasis of the US was on helping refugees, heading off a humanitarian crisis and hastening the end of Gaddafi's reign.

"There is a danger of a stalemate that, over time, could be bloody," Mr Obama said during an appearance with visiting Mexican president Felipe Calderon.

"And that is something that we're obviously considering. So what I want to make sure of is, is that the US has full capacity to act, potentially rapidly, if the situation deteriorated in such a way that you had a humanitarian crisis on our hands."

The Libyan uprising, part of an upheaval across North Africa and the Middle East, has pitted anti-government protesters against the strongman who has ruled for four decades. Gaddafi has unleashed a violent crackdown against those seeking his ouster, drawing international condemnation and sanctions. Hundreds have been killed, perhaps more.

Trying to impose pressure, but with only so much leverage, Mr Obama suggested that Gaddafi loyalists should switch sides in support of the revolutionaries.

Calling Gaddafi a ruler with no legitimacy, Mr Obama said: "Colonel Gaddafi needs to step down from power and leave."

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