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International Community Responds To Libya Crisis, Bloodshed

Last updated (GMT/UTC): 25.02.2011 14:26

International efforts to halt violence in Libya are gathering pace as the United Nations, NATO, and the European Union craft emergency responses to the mounting bloodshed in that country.

The efforts came as Libyan state television broadcast new images of leader Muammar Qaddafi appearing in person atop a rampart at Green Square in the capital, Tripoli, to address supporters.

In his brief attempt to rally those loyal to his regime, Qaddafi vowed to arm the public against protesters and boasted that the country could "defeat any aggression."

At an unprecedented meeting in Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution to dispatch a mission to probe rights violations in Libya, and recommended that the country be suspended from the body.

Meanwhile, diplomats told international news agencies that European Union member states agreed in principle to slap an arms embargo on Libya as well as assets freezes and travel bans on members of the regime.

The embargo is to cover both military hardware and goods that could be used against pro-democracy demonstrators, according to those reports, which said the decision is to be formalized next week.

Fear Of Escalation

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton had said ahead of that bloc's gathering in Hungary that it was time for the bloc to consider restrictive measures against Libya, where President Muammar Qaddafi has mounted a brutal crackdown on protests seeking to topple his four-decade rule.

Fresh violence erupted when alleged foreign mercenaries and troops loyal to Qaddafi shot at protesters in the capital, Tripoli. Al-Jazeera television reported that two people were killed and several others were wounded.

"For the European Union, it is time to consider what we call restrictive measures, to think about what we can do to ensure that we are putting as much pressure as possible to try and stop the violence in Libya and see the country move forward," Ashton said.

The defense ministers were also weighing options to evacuate the more than 5,000 EU citizens still in Libya and provide humanitarian assistance to those in need.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the evacuation posed "a massive challenge."

Meanwhile, on a visit to Turkey, French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on Qaddafi to step down. Speaking at a joint press conference in Ankara with his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul, Sarkozy said Qaddafi "must go" and called for an investigation and sanctions against the Libyan regime and those who continue to do business with it.

'They Carried Batons, Sticks, Broomsticks'

Vangelis Vrakas, a Greek citizen just evacuated from Libya, said independent access to Tripoli's airport was impossible. "There was absolutely no way to reach the airport unless there was an [evacuation] mission from a country. You were attacked," he told Reuters at Athens' airport. "They carried batons, sticks, [and] broomsticks. I mean the policemen, or they could be mercenaries because many were black."

NATO's main decision-making body is holding an emergency meeting in Brussels to discuss the situation in Libya and requests for the military alliance to help evacuate foreigners stranded by the fighting. Fogh Rasmussen said NATO does not plan any military intervention in the North African nation.

In Geneva, the UN Human Rights Council gathered to decide whether to expel the North African country -- the first time that the United Nations' top human rights body has held a special session to scrutinize one of its members.

Addressing the meeting, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay denounced the mass killing of antigovernment demonstrators and said thousands may already had been slain or injured.

Pillay described the pro-Qaddafi crackdown as "escalating alarmingly." She said Libyan forces used tanks and helicopters to target protesters, many of whom she said were killed by shots to the head or chest.

Widespread Condemnation

The UN Security Council meanwhile was holding a meeting in New York to discuss a proposal drafted by France and Britain calling for an arms embargo, financial sanctions, and the prosecution of Libyan leaders for crimes against humanity. But a vote on the draft resolution was not expected until next week.

The United States has also urged strong action against Qaddafi's regime. President Barack Obama called the leaders of Britain, France, and Italy by telephone to discuss the international response to events in Libya.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton traveled to Geneva to support the proposal to remove Libya from the UN Human Rights Council. On February 24, Washington said it was considering enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya and did not rule out military action in the country.

Meanwhile, Libyan ambassadors, officials, and soldiers continued to defect in protest at the bloodshed.

The country's ambassador to Jordan, Muhammad al-Barghathi, said on February 24 that he was joining the side of protesters.

"Our great people, due to these developments, I have decided to leave my job as an ambassador in order to remain in my natural position with you and among you," Barghathi said.

Tripoli's ambassadors to Paris and UNESCO has also resigned, as well as Libyan Prosecutor-General Abdul-Rahman al-Abbar.

Too Little, Too Late?

Libya's government, clinging to power, has announced wage increases, food subsidies, and new allowances for all families.

But the cash handouts were unlikely to placate those fueling the revolt.

Thousands of Libyans rallied in Tripoli and cities in the country's east after Friday prayers to call for Qaddafi's ouster.

The rebels control large swaths of territory, including the second-largest city of Benghazi. Qaddafi is believed to be in control of the capital as well as several areas in Libya's southern and sparsely populated central regions.

His appearance on Green Square late on February 25 came amid reports that security forces were firing on protesters who took to the streets of the capital, killing some.

Thousands of foreigners have fled the country, but many remain stranded by the fighting.

based on agency and media reports


Copyright (c) 2011. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

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