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Opposition leaders applaud U.S. intervention in Libya

From NBC's Suzy Kianpour
Former Libyan Ambassador Ali Aujali joined Council on American-Islamic Relations President Nihad Awad, American-Libyan Council President Fadel Lamen, Libyan Emergency Task Force Director Dr. Esam Omeish, and Muslim Public Affairs Council Washington Director Haris Tarim, at the National Press Thursday to express their support for the military action in the troubled North African nation.

They spoke about the need for allied forces to arm the opposition forces, cautioned against more “boots on the ground,” expressed their desire for the Obama administration to stay involved in the conflict, and discussed the strategic role the city of Misurata plays in the Libyan conflict. Ambassador Aujali also offered some unique insight into his last interaction with Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Oemish thanked the Obama administration for a "timely and swift" response, which came in the wake of Aujali’s comments last week insinuating that the United States had taken longer than he'd hoped to get involved with the crisis. He called Obama "reminiscent of George H.W. Bush" for his efforts in Kuwait against Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in 1991. "What the U.S. has done will never be forgotten by the Libyan people," Oemish said.

Awad called on President Barack Obama to increase U.S. support in Libya. "Now's not the time to weaken our resolve," he said. "It's our moral duty to do whatever is necessary to support the people of Libya."

They shared stories they’ve heard from Misurata, a city in northwestern Libya. "Stories we cannot even tell our wives," Aujali said, comparing Gadhafi’s actions to those of Italy’s Benito Mussolini and Germany’s Adolf Hitler. "The fight for Misurata is the fight for Libya, I want everyone to understand that," Lamen added, citing the strategic importance of the city to opposition leaders.

Aujali said they are not looking for more "boots on the ground" but rather, more logistical training to supplement the ongoing efforts. In the event that the opposition takes over and Gadhafi falls into their hands, Aujali said they will hand him over to the international court to "stand trial for crimes in Libya.

Lamen stressed that the situation in Libya is unique. "Afghanistan is not Libya, Libya is more coherent," he said, "Libya has more urban centers like urban cities," and went on to compare the situation in Libya to that of what happened in Kosovo and that in the end the Libyan people want to oust Gadhafi themselves. "They want that honor" he said.

The news conference concluded with an interesting anecdote about Auajli's last interaction with Gadhafi. "Last year in May I went to Tripoli to see him," he said and talked about how he explained the importance of relations with the UN and how he should allow more American investments and for tourists to be allowed to come to Libya so that American citizens wouldn't have a negative view of Libya. "He always panicked if his relationship with American was not good," Aujali said.