WASHINGTON — Despite squabbling among allies involved in the air assault in Libya, President Barack Obama said Tuesday he is confident the U.S. can hand over control of the operation to other nations in a matter of days.

The president, speaking in El Salvador, said the attack authorized by the United Nations late last week has already saved the lives of Libyans who would otherwise have been targeted by forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi.

Responding to a question at a news conference on the final stop of a Latin American trip, the president also suggested the administration would not need to request funding from Congress for the air operations but would pay for them out of money already approved.

Obama spoke as administration officials briefed lawmakers in Washington about the military operation to date, and as the White House disclosed he would return home a few hours ahead of schedule on Wednesday.