PARIS — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met late Monday with a leader of Libya’s increasingly beleaguered opposition, but did so privately and without a public statement.
The meeting reflected the Obama administration’s struggle over how much support it would, or could, provide to the rebels seeking to overthrow Libya’s leader, Moammar Gadhafi.
Clinton met the opposition leader, Mahmoud Jibril, at her hotel here after attending a dinner with foreign ministers of the countries of the Group of 8, who discussed ways to increase pressure on Gadhafi’s government, including imposing a no-fly zone over Libyan territory. Clinton and Jibril met for 45 minutes but did not appear publicly out of concern for his security, an aide said.
Although aides to Clinton said the foreign ministers shared a sense of urgency, they announced no new actions or proposals.
The Arab League called over the weekend for action to halt Libyan airstrikes — without saying explicitly which countries would enforce it — but a senior administration official said early Tuesday that the G-8 ministers “wanted further clarification of what it meant.”
The United States appears ambivalent about a new military operation in the Middle East, and other countries have outwardly opposed it, including Turkey, a fellow member of NATO.
The Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, said a military intervention in Libya would be “extremely unbeneficial.”
In Washington, President Barack Obama again said it was time for Gadhafi “to leave.”
But Obama, too, stopped short of promising specific new action.
“It’s going to be very important for us to look at a wide range of options that continue to tighten the noose around Gadhafi and apply additional pressure,” he said during an appearance with the Danish prime minister, Lars Loekke Rasmussen.
“And so we will be continuing to coordinate closely both through NATO as well as the United Nations and other international fora to look at every single option that’s available to us in bringing about a better outcome for the Libyan people.”
The meeting between Clinton and Jibril was the highest-level contact yet between the administration and the increasingly disorganized forces battling troops loyal to Gadhafi. Libyan troops continued to push back on Monday, using overwhelming military superiority to drive rebel forces from towns they seized after a popular uprising began last month.