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Obama Says Qaddafi Regime 'Greatly' Damaged


Rebel fighters fire a rocket west of the rebel-held city of Misurata on June 17.
U.S. President Barack Obama today said NATO's campaign against Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's regime has greatly diminished its strength and control.

Speaking at a news conference in Washington, Obama reiterated, however, that the mission's goal will only be accomplished when Qaddafi relinquishes power.

"There is no doubt that Qaddafi stepping down from power is, from the international community's perspective, going to be the primary way that we can assure that the overall mission of Libya's people being protected is accomplished," he said.

The French military, meanwhile, said it has parachuted weapons to Libyan rebels fighting Qaddafi's forces -- the first NATO country to publicly announce it has armed rebel fighters.

French Colonel Thierry Burkhard today said the drops took place this month in western Libya, where civilians were surrounded by loyalist forces.

He said the weapons included assault weapons, machine guns, rocket-propelled grenades, and munitions.

Britain today confirmed that Libya's cash-strapped opposition has received donor funds to pay salaries to public-sector workers in rebel-held areas.

British Foreign Secretary William Hague said a first payment of $100 million in international aid had been made to Libya's main opposition group.

compiled from agency reports