The Pentagon says U.S. President Barack Obama has approved the use of armed drones (unmanned aircraft) over Libya.

Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Thursday the Predator drone is an example of the unique military capabilities that the United States can contribute to the NATO-led campaign in Libya.  He denied that the use of the drones is in any way an indictment of the alliance’s capabilities.

Asked why the United States is not deploying ground troops, Gates said regime change is best achieved by citizens and not imposed by the outside.  He said the goal of the U.S. is to degrade the forces of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to make it easier for the people to rise up against him.  He also said he believes that over time Mr. Gadhafi will be more constrained militarily and financially due to international military actions and sanctions.

Hours earlier at the State Department, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said there are reports that Gadhafi’s forces may have used cluster bombs in the fighting against rebels.

Clinton did not provide details.  But, citing the situation in the western town of Misrata, she said government forces are engaging in what she called “deplorable” activities that target civilians and cause enormous death and suffering.

Cluster bombs scatter small deadly fragments across a wide area, putting civilians at particular risk.

The secretary of state expressed deep regret for all loss of life, and said she was especially saddened by the deaths of two journalists Wednesday in Misrata.

Clinton said authorities in Libya continue to harass and detain journalists.  She called for the release of all Americans who are being unjustly held, including at least two journalists.  She said Libyan officials have not provided accurate information on how many Americans are being detained.

She said the international community remains united in its resolve, and repeated calls for Mr. Gadhafi to step down.  The top U.S. diplomat spoke alongside Dutch Foreign Minister Uri Rosenthal, who also condemned the actions by Mr. Gadhafi.

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