Las Vegas protesters rally against Gadhafi regime; Obama wants Libyan leader out

WASHINGTON -- Ratcheting up the pressure, President Barack Obama on Saturday said Moammar Gadhafi has lost his legitimacy to rule and urged the Libyan leader to leave power immediately.

t was the first time Obama has called for Gadhafi to step down, coming after days of bloodshed in Libya. Gadhafi has vowed to fight to the end to keep his four-decade grip on power in the North African country.

"When a leader's only means of staying in power is to use mass violence against his own people, he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what is right for his country by leaving now," the White House said in a statement, summarizing Obama's telephone conversation with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

Until now, U.S. officials have held back from such a pronouncement, insisting it is for the Libyan people to decide who their leader should be.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Libyans "have made themselves clear."