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Obama: Libya 'a recipe for success'


Barack Obama during an interview on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (AP)

Barack Obama during an interview on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (AP)

Barack Obama during an interview on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno (AP)

Barack Obama has defended the US role in bringing down Libyan strongman Muammar Gaddafi, rejecting assessments that the international coalition he helped assemble amounted to "leading from behind".

"We lead from the front," he told television host Jay Leno.

Laying out an argument for his emerging foreign policy doctrine, President Obama distinguished the US steps in Libya from the invasion and nine-year war in Iraq. He argued that by building a broad international alliance of European and Arab nations against Gaddafi, the United States saved American lives and money and achieved its goal.

"Not a single US troop was on the ground," he said. "Not a single US troop was killed or injured, and that, I think, is a recipe for success in the future."

Nudged by Leno, Mr Obama reflected on the meaning of Gaddafi's death, a gruesome and chaotic demise recorded on mobile phone video for the world to see. The President argued that Gaddafi had had an opportunity to let Libya move on a path towards democracy peacefully.

"He wouldn't do it," Mr Obama said. "And, obviously, you never like to see anybody come to the kind of end that he did, but I think it obviously sends a strong message around the world to dictators that people long to be free, and they need to respect the human rights and the universal aspirations of people."

However, Mr Obama noted that the Pentagon never released photographs of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden after he was killed by US Navy SEALs. "That's not something that I think we should relish," the President said. "You know, I think that there's a certain decorum with which you treat the dead even if it's somebody who has done terrible things."

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Mr Obama's appearance on the Leno show, taped extra early at NBC studios to satisfy his schedule, is his fourth on the show and his second as president.

The appearance came in the middle of a lucrative three-day fund-raising tour for the President even as he tries to bring attention to the plight of people suffering in a weak economy.

The interview covered a range of topics, from foreign policy to Mr Obama's jobs bill to television watching. The first segment, free of jokes or chit-chat, focused on Libya, Iraq and al Qaida.

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