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By The Skanner News
Published: 28 February 2011

GENEVA (AP) -- The European Union slapped its own arms embargo, visa ban and other sanctions Monday on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's regime, part of an escalating global effort to halt a bloody crackdown on his critics in the North African nation.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton came to Geneva on Monday to press EU diplomats, including Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, for stronger action against Gadhafi's regime.

Ashton said the European measures, including a freeze on assets, aimed to reinforce U.N. Security Council sanctions against Libya approved over the weekend. The EU action was significant because Europe has much more leverage over Libya than the United States - 85 percent of Libyan oil goes to Europe and Gadhafi and his family are thought to have significant assets in Britain, Switzerland and Italy. Switzerland and Britain have already hit Libya with a freeze on assets.

Even before Ashton announced the new sanctions, France pledged to send two planes with humanitarian aid to Libya's opposition stronghold of Benghazi while Germany also mulled a two-month cutoff of oil payments to Gadhafi's regime. This came after days of increasing concern about the hundreds, and potentially thousands, of deaths caused by Gadhafi's military resistance against the popular uprising in his country.

"The massive violence against peaceful demonstrators shocks our conscience. It should also spring us into action," Ashton told the Human Rights Council.

The EU also embargoed any equipment that could be "used for internal repression," Ashton said, urging nations to coordinate actions to help people across North Africa and the Middle East.

A more complex set of negotiations, she added, were being held over the possibility of creating a no-fly zone over Libya.

Libya's oil chief says production is down 50 percent due to foreign oil workers fleeing the uprising, but the head of the National Oil Co. told The Associated Press on Monday that Libya's oil installations are protected and safe, disputing remarks by the EU energy commissioner who said Gadhafi has lost control of major fields.

Gadhafi's government has been in power since 1969, but Clinton told the U.N.'s Human Rights Council that he and his allies have "lost the legitimacy to govern" by reportedly executing soldiers who refused to turn their guns on civilians and other severe human rights abuses. The council itself has recommended suspending Libya as a member.

"Governments that turn their guns on their own people have no place in this chamber," Clinton said, adding the U.S. would continue to "explore all options ... nothing is off the table" in dealing with Libya's human rights abuses.

In Paris, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said planes were taking off for the eastern city of Benghazi with doctors, nurses, medicines and medical equipment.

"It will be the beginning of a massive operation of humanitarian support for the populations of liberated territories," he said on RTL radio. "(France is studying) all the options to make Colonel Gadhafi understand that he should go."

Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, said the EU should consider a total ban on payments to Libya, including for oil deliveries from there. But he said Germany wants a 60-day ban to prevent Gadhafi and his family from receiving any fresh funds.

"This dictator family has to be financially dried up to stop them from hiring ever more mercenaries for a lot of money so they can attack the Libyan people," Westerwelle told reporters in Geneva. "We must do everything so this murder ends."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague told AP his government was "very sympathetic" to the German proposal as part of broader sanctions against Gadhafi's regime.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking in Germany, repeated his opposition to sanctions or intervention against Libya, saying "the people should not be forced to pay for their leaders' wrongs."

Since the U.N. Security Council voted Saturday to impose new penalties against Libya, Clinton said the United States was "reaching out to many different Libyans who are attempting to organize," mostly in eastern Libya.

In response Monday, Libya's state-run news agency, JANA, quoted a foreign ministry official as saying that Clinton's comments are "a flagrant intervention in Libya's internal affairs and ... of the United Nations charter."

The unnamed official, according to JANA, said Clinton's statement "seriously harms relations between the two countries and threatens their joint interests and alliance against terrorism. These statements show that the American administration is involved in the conspiracy that is targeting the safety and unity of Libya."

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, meanwhile, said he has personally urged Gadhafi to step down and set up a transitional government to prevent further violence. Blair told The Times newspaper that he made two telephone calls to the embattled dictator last week, but the message that he should resign was rebuffed. He described the Libyan leader as being in denial about his situation.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd called on the world's powers to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and compared Gadhafi's violent suppression of opposition forces to genocides in Rwanda, the Bosnian town of Srebrenica and Sudan's Darfur region.

"For the sake of humanity, go now," Rudd advised Gadhafi in a speech to the Human Rights Council.

He told the AP a U.N.-mandated no-fly zone over Libya would prevent the type of aerial bombing unleashed on the Basque town of Guernica in 1937, killing hundreds in the Spanish Civil War. A no-fly zone would require the approval of the 15-member U.N. Security Council.

"Guernica is known throughout the world for the bombing of the civilian population. We have seen evidence of that in Libya. Let us not simply stand idly by while similar atrocities are committed again," Rudd told the AP.

Fillon said many more discussions were needed before the United Nations would support a no-fly zone over Libya and questioned whether NATO should get involved in a civil war in a North African country. The NATO chief has already rejected intervening in Libya.

British and German military planes swooped into Libya's desert over the weekend, rescuing hundreds of oil workers and civilians stranded at remote sites. The secret military missions signaled the readiness of Western nations to disregard Libya's territorial integrity when it comes to the safety of their citizens.

The U.N. Security Council has told the International Criminal Court to look into possible crimes against humanity occurring in Libya, only the second such referral. The first was in 2005 when the U.N. asked the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal to probe mass killings in Darfur.

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Frank Jordans in Geneva, Sylvie Corbet and Angela Charlton in Paris, Raf Casert in Brussels, Danica Kirka in London, Geir Moulson in Berlin and Suzan Fraser in Ankara contributed to this report.

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