Despite differences on Libya, Obama and Merkel tout strong military partnership

Despite the fact that German forces are sitting out the international enforcement of the no-fly zone in Libya, President Obama and German Chancellor Angela Merkel emphasized the strength of their alliance and the shared commitment to the region of over the long term.

Germany has “stepped up” by taking additional responsibilities in Afghanistan, Obama said, freeing up resources for the operations in Libya.

At a joint news conference with the German leader Tuesday, Obama sidestepped a question about whether German military power might have moved the effort along more quickly, arguing instead that NATO has made significant progress over the last three months.

“Chancellor Merkel and I share the belief that [Libyan leader Moammar] Kadafi needs to step down for the sake of his own people,” he said.

Merkel echoed the thought, saying “we” have made progress in Libya and pledging an ongoing involvement in the months to come.

“Germany will be showing that it is responsible and committed to the Libyan cause,” she said. “It is our joint will that this NATO mission is successful.”

Obama will fete Merkel Tuesday night at a formal state dinner, during which he will award her the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest civilian honor.