WASHINGTON — Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi appealed directly to President Barack Obama on Wednesday to end what Gadhafi called "an unjust war." He also wished Obama good luck in his bid for re-election next year.
"You are a man who has enough courage to annul a wrong and mistaken action," Gadhafi wrote in a rambling, three-page letter to Obama obtained by the Associated Press on Wednesday. "I am sure that you are able to shoulder the responsibility for that."
The White House confirmed the letter, but top officials shrugged it off.
"I don't think there is any mystery about what is expected from Mr. Gadhafi at this time," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said, repeating U.S. and NATO demands that Gadhafi's forces pull back and cease attacks. She also renewed a demand that Gadhafi step down from power and leave the country.
"There needs to be a cease-fire, his forces need to withdraw from the cities that they have forcibly taken at great violence and human cost," she said. "There needs to be a decision made about his departure from power and … his departure from Libya."
Rebels and pro-government forces waged nearly stalemate battles in Libya, while a former U.S. lawmaker, Curt Weldon, a Pennsylvania Republican who has visited Libya twice before, made an unendorsed private trip to Tripoli to try to convince Gadhafi to step down. An Obama administration envoy, Chris Stevens, continued meeting with Libyan opposition figures in the rebel-held city of Benghazi, with no decision on whether to increase U.S. help for the rebels seeking Gadhafi's ouster.
The rebels, aided by U.N.-authorized airstrikes intended to protect civilians from Gadhafi's forces, have maintained control of much of the eastern half of Libya since early in the uprising, while Gadhafi has clung to much of the west. Gadhafi has been putting out feelers for a cease-fire, but he refuses to step down. Neither government forces nor the rebels have made any serious gains in recent days and the conflict has shifted to smaller objectives on both sides such as control of the key oil port of Brega, where fighting has flared on the outskirts.
A boat carrying as many as 300 migrants from Libya capsized in rough seas off the Italian coast, leaving 250 unaccounted for.
Yemen: Defying a deadly government crackdown, tens of thousands of protesters poured into the streets of Yemen's second largest city. Two groups met in the city center where a general strike had closed shops and banks in what activists were calling the "Tsunami of Taiz" and the largest demonstration in the troubled southern city to date.