U.S. and Europeans leaders took new steps Monday

Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 28, 2011; 12:27 PM

GENEVA - U.S. and Europeans leaders took new steps Monday to tighten the noose on Libya's besieged government--sending aid to rebels and refugees, toughening sanctions and calling for the ouster of longtime leader Moammar Gaddafi.
The European Union, meeting in Brussels, voted to approve wide-ranging sanctions similar to those adopted over the weekend by the United States and the United Nations. The EU also slapped Libya with an arms embargo and imposed a visa ban for members of Gaddafi's inner circle, as world powers moved quickly and in virtual lockstep to punish the Libyan government for its violent crackdown on demonstrators.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, addressing a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council, catalogued the atrocities Gaddafi's regime is alleged to have committed, and said the international community is "speaking with one voice" in demanding his immediate removal.
"They have used heavy weapons on unarmed civilians. Mercenaries and thugs have been turned loose to attack demonstrators," Clinton said. " There are reports of soldiers executed for refusing to turn their guns on fellow citizens, of indiscriminate killings, arbitrary arrests, and torture.
"Col. Gaddafi and those around him must be held accountable for these acts, which violate international legal obligations and common decency," Clinton added. ". . .It is time for Gaddafi to go. Now, without further violence or delay."
Two senior administration officials involved in the consultations Clinton is having with European and Middle Eastern allies here said a military no-fly zone above liberated areas of eastern Libya was among the options discussed.
Enforcing such a no-fly zone would prevent Gaddafi's regime from ordering air attacks on protesters or rebel-held areas.
"As the secretary said, all options are on the table," said one of the officials. Both insisted on anonymity, citing the sensitivity of ongoing diplomatic discussions.
The officials said the State Department is dispatching humanitarian teams to Libya's eastern and western borders to provide aid to a tide of refugees streaming out of the country.
European officials also are bracing for what some fear could be a mass migration--perhaps hundreds of thousands of people--headed across the Mediterranean Sea into Europe.
In France, Prime Minister Francois Fillon announced that two planeloads of French doctors, nurses and medical supplies were en route to the rebel-held city of Benghazi on Monday in what he described as "the beginning of a massive humanitarian support operation to the populations of liberated territory" in Libya.
Criticized for a slow reaction to the revolts in Tunisia and Egypt, President Nicolas Sarkozy seemed eager to demonstrate clear-cut backing for the uprising against Gaddafi and to position France as a friend of whatever government might take over the oil-rich North African nation.
In addition to formally endorsing the package of sanctions and travel restrictions approved Saturday by the U.N. Security Council, the 27 E.U. countries went a step further by expanding the number of senior Gaddafi advisers and family members who would be subject to a visa ban.
Individual European Union members called for still harsher measures. German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, after meeting with Clinton, said his government supported a freeze on all payments to Libya for the next 60 days, citing reports that Libya is hiring foreign mercenaries to conduct violent crackdown on protesters.
"We must do everything to make sure no money is going to the Libyan dictator's family so they won't have an opportunity to hire new foreign soldiers to repress their people," Westerwelle said.
Clinton is using the Geneva trip to rally international support for a campaign of steadily increasing economic and diplomatic pressure against Libya as well as humanitarian aid for its citizens. Administration officials have stressed the importance of a unified, multilateral response, noting that European nations have far stronger diplomatic and economic ties to Libya.
Although Gaddafi appears determined to hold on to power at all costs, others in his inner circle "may in fact be rational and may be in interested in self-preservation," a senior administration official said.
The speed with which the security council and the larger international community responded to the violence in Libya came as a welcome surprise to a White House that in the past has often struggled to build a global consensus.
"The lesson of history is that when it comes to these kinds of crises there tends to be international disunity," the senior administration official said. "Here we have managed to have the most united front imaginable. But it is important that we move to the next stage."
Correspondent Ed Cody contributed to this report from Paris.

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