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White House defends Libya mission

Defying criticism from congress, the White House has insisted that President Barack Obama has the authority to continue US military action in Libya even without authorisation from the house of representatives.

In a detailed, 32-page report to congress, the White House also put the cost of US military operations and humanitarian assistance in Libya at about 800 million US dollars (£495m), as of June 3, with the total to increase to 1.1 billion US dollars (£680m) by early September.

The report marks the first time the administration has detailed publicly its legal rationale for continuing the Libya campaign without receiving congressional authorisation within the 60-day window set in the War Powers Resolution.

Officials argued that because the US has a limited, supporting role in the Nato-led bombing campaign in Libya and American forces are not engaged in sustained fighting, the president is within his constitutional rights to direct the mission on his own.

"The president is of the view that the current US military operations in Libya are consistent with the War Powers Resolution and do not under that law require further congressional authorisation because US military operations are distinct from the kind of 'hostilities' contemplated by the resolution's 60-day termination provision," the White House said.

The administration's defence of the Libya mission comes in response to a non-binding house resolution passed this month that chastised Mr Obama for failing to provide a "compelling rationale" for US involvement in Libya.

The resolution gave the administration until tomorrow to respond to a series of questions on the mission, including the scope of US military activity, the cost of the mission and its impact on other US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The report appeared to do little to quell congressional criticism. A spokesman for house speaker John Boehner, a Republican, said the White House was using "creative arguments" that raised additional questions.

Adding to the congressional pressure on Mr Obama, a bipartisan group of 10 politicians sued the president for taking military action against Libya without war authorisation from congress.

Mr Boehner sent Mr Obama a letter this week stating that the 90-day window runs out on Sunday. Previous presidents, both Republicans and Democrats, have largely ignored the law, which was created as a check on their power to authorise military force.

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