Obama: Noose tightening on Gaddafi

US president says sanctions are taking effect, as EU members remain split on what action to take against Libyan leader.

    European leaders on Friday were united in calling on the government of Muammar Gaddafi to step down

    Barack Obama, the US president, has said his country and its allies are slowly "tightening the noose" around Muammar Gaddafi and that a no-fly zone is still an option for pressuring the Libyan leader.

    Obama, accused by some critics of reacting too slowly to the rebellion in Libya, said on Friday he believed international
    sanctions, an arms embargo and other measures were having an impact and that all other options remain on the table.

    "Across the board we are slowly tightening the noose on Gaddafi. He is more and more isolated internationally, both
    through sanctions as well as an arms embargo," Obama said.

    The president also said the US had decided it "is appropriate to assign" an envoy to deal with the Libyan opposition and help them advance their goals.

    EU divided

    Earlier on Friday, a European Union crisis summit called on Gaddafi to surrender power, but the 27-member body remained divided on what action to take against him.

    British and France used the meeting in Brussels, the Belgian capital, to push for more preparation for military action and formal recognition of the opposition seeking to oust Gaddafi.

    Merkel, right, said she was 'fundamentally sceptical' as to the prospect of military intervention in Libya [Reuters]

    However, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, said that she was "fundamentally sceptical" to the prospect of military intervention in Libya at the present time.

    "Given the situation today, I don't see a military engagement," Merkel said. However, "each day presents us with a new situation".

    Merkel stressed that in all cases, "a clear legal basis" -  meaning a UN Security Council resolution - would be required for military intervention, based on demonstrable need and strong support from regional partners.

    "If all the conditions are met, we could look at whether it should be on the table," she said. But for now, Berlin wants to "wait and see how things evolve".

    David Cameron, the British prime minister, and Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, had urged partners to recognise the Libyan National Council, set up in Benghazi last month.

    Delegates at the summit showed political support for the council, but stopped short of bestowing on it the diplomatic recognition given by France on Thursdsay.

    Some EU leaders appeared miffed that Sarkozy had taken that action one day before the meeting, which was
    meant to decide on a common strategy.

    Germany said it wanted Europe to listen to the opinions of Libya's neighbours and the Arab League before it decided whether to recognise the rebel body.

    Speaking at a news conference in Tripoli, the Libyan capital, on Friday, Khaled Kaaimi, Libya's deputy foreign minister, said his country had decided to "suspend" diplomatic relations with France.

    UN mission

    In a statement on Friday, Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, said Abdel Ilah Al-Khatib, the former Jordanian foreign minister and special UN envoy to Libya, along with a team of senior humanitarian officials, would go to Tripoli early next week in an effort to halt the violence.

    Ban said: "Their objective will be to assess the situation on the ground and undertake broad consultations with Libyan authorities on the immediate humanitarian, political and security situation.

    "I have instructed Mr Al-Khatib to convey, in no uncertain terms, the concerns of the United Nations and the international community as expressed in Security Council resolutions."

    SOURCE: Agencies


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