TRIPOLI, Libya — 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.
Libyan rebels claimed to be in control of most of the Libyan capital after their lightning advance on Tripoli heralded the fall of Moammar Gadhafi's nearly 42-year regime, but scattered battles erupted and the mercurial leader's whereabouts remained unknown.
NATO promised to continue airstrikes until all pro-Gadhafi forces surrender or return to barracks.
The relative ease with which the rebels captured Tripoli in an hours-long blitz backed by NATO airstrikes showcased the evolution of the opposition fighters who first rose against the regime six months ago, swiftly capturing the eastern part of the vast North African nation but failing to muster enough punch to advance westward toward Tripoli even with the help of months of NATO airstrikes.
For months, the rebels were judged to be big on zeal but short on organization and discipline, but their stunning success in Tripoli showed a high level of planning, coordination and discipline.
In London, British Prime Minister David Cameron said frozen Libyan assets would soon be released to help the country's rebels establish order, saying Gadhafi's regime was "falling apart and in full retreat."