President Barack Obama said Monday that Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi's "rule is over" although elements of his regime continue to resist rebels who have taken control much of the capital.
He appealed to Gadhafi to prevent further bloodshed, and urged opposition forces to build a democratic government through "peaceful, inclusive and just" measures.
In his first appearance since a weekend push by the rebels into the Libyan capital, Obama said there is still fierce fighting in some areas of the city.
"But this much is clear. The Gadhafi regime is coming to an end, and the future of Libya is in the hands of its people."
Obama made his comments on the grounds of a vacation property where he is staying on Martha's Vineyard off the Massachusetts coast.
Half a world away, rebels claimed control of most of Tripoli, including state-run television. At least two of Gadhafi's sons were in custody, but the ruler's whereabouts were unknown.
In his remarks, Obama said the popular uprising against Gadhafi "echoed the voices we had heard all across the region," from Tunis to Cairo, the capitals of two other Arab countries that forced autocratic rulers from power this year. The president made no mention of Syria, where the government has launched a crackdown against protesters in recent weeks that has resulted in the reported deaths of thousands.
The apparent end of the regime came about five months after an air campaign launched by the United States and NATO began targeting Gadhafi's forces.
"In the early days, the United States provided the bulk of the fire power and then our friends stepped forward," Obama said.
He added that Gadhafi was "cut off from arms and cash and his forces were steadily degraded....Over the last several days the situation in Libya has reached a tipping point," he said, and "the people of Tripoli rose up to claim their liberties."
The president provided no information about efforts to locate Gadhafi, although White House and Pentagon officials said earlier they believe he's still in the country.