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Libya Update

February 23, 2011

The White House is saying that President Obama will speak to the situation in Libya either today or tomorrow. It’s about time.

The international community (at least in the West) is trying to coordinate an economic response:

The United States said on Wednesday it was looking at imposing sanctions on Libya to punish it for a violent crackdown on protesters, balancing tougher rhetoric with efforts to safely evacuate Americans.

“We’re looking at a full range of tools and options,” State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said. “That certainly includes looking at sanctions that could be imposed.”

[snip]

In the meantime, Washington would continue to work with the United Nations in reviewing various options, he said.

European Union governments agreed on Wednesday to prepare possible sanctions on Libya in response to Muammar Gadhafi’s violent crackdown on anti-government protests, EU diplomats said.

“They agreed in a statement to take further measures. In diplomatic terms, it means sanctions,” said one EU diplomat after a meeting in Brussels to discuss the issue.

Experts will now draw up a list of proposed measures, which could include visa bans, asset freezes, an arms embargo and other restrictions, before EU governments agree when to impose them.

But diplomats and analysts say that getting international agreement on sanctions would be protracted and possibly unsuccessful, making it more likely that countries such as the United States would have to go it alone.

Crowley said Washington was looking at the possibility of freezing Libyan assets, including those of its leader, Muammar Gadhafi, but no decision had been made yet.

Crowley’s comments marked the toughest U.S. response to date on the bloodshed in Libya in which hundreds of people are reported to have been killed by security forces backed by tanks and warplanes.

U.S. officials suggested the earlier muted U.S. response to the violence was due to fears that Gadhafi could retaliate against U.S. citizens in Libya.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy pressed Wednesday for European Union sanctions against Libya’s regime because of its violent crackdown on protesters, and raised the possibility of cutting all economic and business ties between the EU and the North African nation.

[snip]

The American Jewish Committee called Monday on the United Nations General Assembly to suspend Libya’s membership from the United Nations Human Rights Council in light of the recent human rights violations in the country.

“The Gadhafi regime’s widespread use of brutal force against protesters makes a mockery of the UN Human Rights Council,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris.

“Libya’s membership in the Human Rights Council is clearly incompatible with the noble aims of the world body, as enshrined in the UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and other relevant human rights instruments,” said Harris.

Gadaffi is losing control of key cities in Libya:

Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s long-standing ruler, has reportedly lost control of more cities as anti-government protests continue to sweep the African nation despite his threat of a brutal crackdown.

Protesters in Misurata said on Wednesday they had wrested the western city from government control. In a statement on the internet, army officers stationed in the city pledged “total support for the protesters”.

The protesters also seemed to be in control of much of the country’s east, and an Al Jazeera correspondent, reporting from the city of Tobruk, 140km from the Egyptian border, said there was no presence of security forces.

“From what I’ve seen, I’d say the people of eastern Libya are the ones in control,” Hoda Abdel-Hamid, our correspondent, said.

She said there were no officials manning the border when the Al Jazeera team crossed into Libya.

‘People in charge’

“All along the border, we didn’t see one policeman, we didn’t see one soldier and people here told us they [security forces] have all fled or are in hiding and that the people are now in charge, meaning all the way from the border, Tobruk, and then all the way up to Benghazi.

“People tell me it’s also quite calm in Bayda and Beghazi. They do say, however, that ‘militias’ are roaming around, especially at night. They describe them as African men, they say they speak French so they think they’re from Chad.”

Major-General Suleiman Mahmoud, the commander of the armed forces in Tobruk, told Al Jazeera that the troops led by him had switched loyalties.

“We are on the side of the people,” he said. “I was with him [Gaddafi] in the past but the situation has changed – he’s a tyrant.”

Benghazi, Libya’s second largest city, was where people first rose up in revolt against Gaddafi’s 42-year long rule more than a week ago. The rebellion has since spread to other cities despite heavy-handed attempts by security forces to quell the unrest.

Al Jazeera’s Libya Live Blog is here and is a great source of up-to-the-minute information. Also, their live-stream video (not just on Libya) is here.

One Comment leave one →
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