NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — President Barack Obama arrived in Manhattan on Tuesday afternoon with one mission in mind, furthering his defense of intervention in Libya.
On the day the U.S. and Britain stepped up pressure on Moammar Gadhafi, the president addressed the U.S. Mission to the United Nations, reports CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.
“Today we see the NATO alliance in command of the arms embargo, the no-fly zone (and) starting tomorrow, the mission to protect the Libyan people,” the president said.
It was the second time in as many days the president defended his decision to send U.S. ships and warplanes to Libya.
“When peace is threatened; when international law is undermined, we cannot stand idly by,” Obama said.
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On Monday night the president delivered a speech defending intervention, saying the United States had to intervene in Libya to prevent a humanitarian disaster. But we are now getting some picture of the cost. The pentagon said Tuesday the tab so far is more than half a billion dollars.
Boxes of ammunition and fuel were loaded on to an American warship off the coast of Libya on Tuesday, allowing a tight surveillance ring of allied ships to stay in position as they help to enforce the no-fly zone.
This as the pentagon said it has spent $550 million in the 10 days it has been involved in Libya — the cost of 192 cruise missiles, 983 flyovers — 370 of those bombing missions against Gadhafi’s military sites — plus surveillance, refueling and deployment.
In Libya, rebels fired rockets and machine guns at government troops near Gadhafi’s home town. Opposition forces lost ground and had to flee from the front lines, but they are now regrouping.
This happened as leaders from some 40 nations met in London to step up pressure on Gadhafi to quit.
“All of us must continue to increase the pressure and deepen the isolation of the Gadhafi regime,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
Italy and Britain suggested they might be willing to let Gadhafi go into exile in order to achieve a quick cease fire, but the international group is still struggling to work out an end game.
In Washington a top military official told Congress the lesson of Desert Storm in Iraq is that a new government is necessary.
“I think a stalemate is not in anybody’s interest,” U.S. European Commander Adm. James Stavridis said.
The president’s remarks came as officials said they had no specific information about links between the Libyan rebels supported by the no-fly zone and terrorist groups.
“The intelligence I’m receiving at this point makes me feel that the leadership I’m seeing are responsible men and women who are struggling against Col. Gadhafi. We have seen flickers in the intelligence of potential al Qaeda, Hezbollah, but at this point I don’t have detail, sufficient to say that there is a significant terrorist presence,” Adm. Stavridis said.
The president said Monday night the people of Libya deserve than the Libyan strongman.
“We continue to pursue the broader goal of a Libya that belongs not to a dictator but to its people,” Obama said.
However, Libyan government spokesman Ibrahim Mussa was defiant in the face of Obama’s vows.
“You can’t sit in Washington or New York and decide the fate of the Libyan people,” Mussa said.
The president took time to clarify his Libya policy in an interview with CBS’ Erica Hill, reiterating Tuesday his objective is not to oust Gadhafi, but rather, “Mobilizing the world community to continue to put the squeeze on him so that at some point he makes the decision to leave.”
Obama attended a mega-fundraiser in Harlem Tuesday night — his first visit there since being elected president and his first fund raising event north of 125th street. New York was a political cash register for then-candidate Obama. He raised $42 million here to help win the presidency. On Tuesday night the haul was expected to be $1.5 million as just 50 people paid over $30,000 each to dine with the president.
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By the time he was done, Obama’s day carried not only echoes of his 2008 campaign, but also its frenetic schedule.
“We are very excited the President of the United States is here in Harlem and we are here to welcome him,” one resident told CBS 2’s John Metaxas on Tuesday night.
The highlight of the first African American president’s trip to Harlem was the dinner at the Red Rooster on Lenox Avenue. Security was tight as adoring crowds lined the avenue.
“To see the President of the United States come to Harlem, our first black president, I’m just happy,” Harlem resident Henry Singleton said.
There were also protests against not only the price tag of the dinner — more money than the average Harlem resident is said to earn in a year – but also against the president’s military mission in Libya.
“If you look at the direction of the country, the promises he made in the campaign, I don’t see any change whatsoever,” one man said.
“Black people did not vote for Barack Obama to bomb African nations,” City Councilman Charles Barron said.
But the trip also allowed president to show his talents at connecting with people. He took time to talk to talk with one Bronx High School of Science student about his winning science project — a bicycle made of bamboo that promises a more eco-friendly future.
“I thought he was a really personable, down to earth person. He was really easy to talk to,” senior Max Kiss said.
Would you pay $30,000 to attend an Obama fundraiser? Who would you spend that kind of money to see? Sound off in our comments section.