World Leaders Seek Ways to Combat Libya Crackdown

UNITED NATIONS

World leaders were on Friday studying punitive measures to take against Moamer Kadhafi as the Libyan strongman’s brutal crackdown on a nationwide revolt grew more desperate.

France and Britain have proposed the UN Security Council pass a resolution calling for sanctions and a total arms embargo against Libya ahead of its meeting later to discuss the crisis, France’s top diplomat said.

Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie also said they would propose bringing members of the Libyan regime before the International Criminal Court for crimes against humanity.

“There can be no impunity,” she said, adding that sanctions could include travel bans for members of Kadhafi’s regime or financial measures.

“I would like there to be a strong (Security Council) resolution in response to Kadhafi’s calls to murder,” she added.

US President Barack Obama had earlier spoken with French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the British and Italian prime ministers David Cameron and Silvio Berlusconi.

Diplomats said they are studying a possible no-fly zone over Libya, as well as a travel ban and assets freeze against the Kadhafi family amid mounting concern over the growing death toll.

“All options are on the table. We are not ruling anything out,” a Western diplomat said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The 15-nation council is determined to show international anger after Kadhafi rejected calls from Obama, other heads of state and the Security Council itself for a halt to the violence, diplomats said.

But they noted that sanctions are unlikely to be announced or agreed by Friday’s meeting, when UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will address envoys.

Ban has already expressed outrage over Kadhafi’s actions and warned of international action against those responsible for the violence.

Obama and Sarkozy, who spoke by phone, renewed their call for an end to the “continuing brutal and bloody repression and to the threatening statements of the Libyan leadership,” the French presidency said.

“The two presidents reiterated their demand for an immediate halt to the use of force against the civilian population.”

In a separate conversation, Obama and Cameron promised to “coordinate on possible multilateral measures on Libya,” the British prime minister’s office said. Cameron has already called for a UN resolution.

The joint action between the two leaders would include moves at the UN Human Rights Council, which meets in Geneva on Friday. Western nations are seeking to have Libya kicked out of the international body.

The Security Council released a statement on Tuesday condemning the Kadhafi regime’s crackdown and calling for action against those responsible for the violence that some fear may have killed up to 1,000 people.

It was the world body’s first comment on the protests and unrest that have swept the Middle East and North Africa, driving the longtime leaders of Tunisia and Egypt from power.

“Apparently, the regime in Tripoli did not heed the call of the Security Council,” said Germany’s UN envoy Peter Wittig.

“So we have really got to think about further action and that is what we emphasized.”

Though diplomats stressed there was unity on the council about the need for new measures on Libya, some have said sanctions are likely to be left first to the European Union and United States.

“There was a clear sense that Security Council members want to continue the momentum in terms of the strong unanimity that the council has to address this violence,” said another Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The European Union and United States have already threatened sanctions against Libya.

China and Russia, two of the five permanent Security Council nations with veto powers, traditionally resist sanctions against sovereign countries, but a Chinese diplomat said his country was ready to “consider” further action.

China has taken a tougher line on Libya as it has had to move thousands of nationals out of the strife-torn nation.

Russia has said the the use of force against civilians in Libya is “unacceptable,” but Prime Minister Vladimir Putin also warned the West against interfering in other countries’ internal affairs.

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