UPDATE 4-Rice: US has not ruled out arming Libyan rebels

Tue Mar 29, 2011 2:23pm GMT

* Rice says Gaddafi exit "may not happen overnight"

* McCain says Gaddafi must go or there will be a stalemate (Adds more background on arms embargo)

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON, March 29 (Reuters) - U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice said on Tuesday that the Obama administration has not ruled out arming Libya's rebels as an option for trying to end Muammar Gaddafi's 41-year rule.

Speaking a day after President Barack Obama defended his Libya strategy in a televised address, Rice said Gaddafi has shown no sign of leaving power without continued pressure from Western powers that have imposed a no-fly zone over Libya and used air strikes to constrain his ground forces.

"Over the long term, as the president said, there are other things that are at our disposal that perhaps will assist in speeding Gaddafi's exit," she told CBS's "The Early Show" as part of a series of TV interviews.

"It may not happen overnight," she added.

She spoke as more than 40 countries and international organizations gathered in London to chart a post-Gaddafi future for Libya. Britain and Italy suggested he could be allowed to go into exile.

Rice said the United States would maintain financial and diplomatic pressure on the Libyan government until Gaddafi leaves and hinted that new steps could be in the offing, including the arming of Libyan rebels.   Continued...

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