GOP presidential candidates weigh in on Libya

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GOP presidential candidates Texas Gov. Rick Perry, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, and former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman — using distinctly different spellings of the dictator’s name — were the first Republican presidential candidates to comment on the assumed end of Muammar Gaddafi’s 40-year reign in Libya.

In a statement issued Monday morning, Perry expressed restrained optimism for the embattled countries future and America’s future relationship with Libya.

“The crumbling of Muammar Ghadafi’s reign, a violent, repressive dictatorship with a history of terrorism, is cause for cautious celebration,” Perry said. “The lasting impact of events in Libya will depend on ensuring rebel factions form a unified, civil government that guarantees personal freedoms, and builds a new relationship with the West where we are allies instead of adversaries.”

Romney offered a hopeful comment about the future of the country and a caveat for the new government.

“The world is about to be rid of Muammar el-Qaddafi, the brutal tyrant who terrorized the Libyan people. It is my hope that Libya will now move toward a representative form of government that supports freedom, human rights, and the rule of law,” he said. “As a first step, I call on this new government to arrest and extradite the mastermind behind the bombing of Pan Am 103, Abdelbaset Mohmed Ali al-Megrahi, so justice can finally be done.” (RELATED: TheDC’s Jamie Weinstein: Will Gaddafi’s downfall vindicate Obama’s war?)

Huntsman offered a hopeful response to the weekend’s events.

“The impending fall of Colonel Gaddafi is one chapter in the developing story of a nation in turmoil. Gaddafi has been a longtime opponent of freedom, and I am hopeful — as the whole world should be — that his defeat is a step toward openness, democracy and human rights for a people who greatly deserve it.”

The latest Rasmussen Reports poll of likely Republican voters had Perry leading the field with 29 percent of the vote. Mitt Romney and Michele Bachmann trailed with 18 percent and 13 percent respectively. Huntsman got 1 percent.

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Watch: BBC reporters attacked by Gaddafi forces