Sarkozy's comments follow a defiant speech by Gaddafi in which he vowed to crush the revolt against him [EPA]

Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, has called on the European Union to impose sanctions against Libya following a violent crackdown on anti-government protesters.

"I call on the foreign ministry to propose to our European Union partners the swift adoption of concrete sanctions so that all those involved in the ongoing violence know that they must assume the consequences of their actions," he told a cabinet meeting on Wednesday.

"I would also like to be examined the suspension until further notice of economic, commercial and financial relations with Libya."

Sarkozy condemned the "brutal and bloody repression" of those protesting against the 42-year rule of Muammer Gaddafi, Libya's leader, and said the international community "could not remain a spectator".

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, has also said she would be in favour of sanctions against Libya if it did not halt the use of violence against its own people.

Hundreds of protesters have been killed in the crackdown.

Merkel's comments came on Tuesday after a defiant speech by Gaddafi in which he said he was "ready to die a martyr" and vowed to crush the revolt against him.

She described his words as "very, very frightening, especially because he virtually declared war on his own people".

"We urge the Libyan government to halt immediately the use of violence against its own people, and if the use of violence does not cease then Germany will exhaust every possibility to exert pressure and influence on Libya," she said.

If the Libyan government did not desist, she said, "we would then speak in favour of sanctions against Libya".

The international community has expressed outrage over the crackdown on protesters in Libya, which comes amid a wave of pro-democracy demonstrations in the Arab world.

The White House said on Tuesday it was examining proposals by US senator John Kerry to consider reimposing sanctions on Libya.

Later that day, Peru said it was suspending diplomatic relations with Libya in protest against the bloodshed.

An online statement released the office of Alan Garcia, the Peruvian president, said it would ask the United Nations Security Council to establish an exclusion zone in Libyan airspace "to prevent the use of that country's warplanes against (its) population".

Source: Agencies