US imposes sanctions on Libya

US President Barack Obama cited the Libyan government's 'continued violation of human rights, brutalization of its people and outrageous threats'.

T he US late Friday imposed unilateral economic and weapons sanctions on Libya’s government for its ongoing crackdown on protesters. US President Barack Obama cited the Libyan government’s ‘continued violation of human rights, brutalization of its people and outrageous threats’.

“By any measure, (leader Muammar Gaddafi’s) government has violated international norms and common decency and must be held accountable,” Obama said in a statement. The White House earlier in the day announced that sanctions were being drawn up but did not give details.

“We will stand steadfastly with the Libyan people in their demand for universal rights and a government that is responsive to their aspirations,” Obama said. “Their human dignity cannot be denied.”

The sanctions target the assets and property of the Gaddafi government, its senior officials, Gaddafi’s children and Libyans who have ordered or participated in ‘the commission of human rights abuses related to political repression in Libya’, according to an official letter sent by Obama to the leaders of the Senate and House of Representatives.

Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton also suspended all licenses and approvals for exporting ‘defence articles and services’ to Libya, Obama said in the letter. He noted in his public statement that the assets that belong to the people of Libya would be protected.

Obama said the US would closely coordinate its actions with the international community. On Saturday, the UN Security Council is to consider international sanctions that could include an arms embargo and travel ban and freezing of the assets of the Gaddafi regime, Brazil’s Ambassador, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti said. Brazil holds the monthly presidency of the 15-member global body for February.

According to RIA Novosti, Viotti said the Council has agreed to meet Saturday to consider a draft resolution, ‘including specific targeted measures aimed at putting an end to violence, helping achieve a peaceful solution to the current crisis, ensuring accountability and respecting the will of the Libyan people’.

According to international organizations, at least 2,000 people have been killed and thousands wounded in clashes with government forces since protests against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s 41-year-old regime began Feb 14.

French Ambassador Gerard Araud also told journalists that the sanctions resolution could be adopted Saturday afternoon, and that Security Council members in general have no differences on its contents.

The UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon called on the Security Council Friday to promptly consider specific steps against Gaddafi’s government for its clampdown on protesters, with options ranging from sanctions to assured punishment. “In these circumstances, the loss of time means more loss of lives,” Ban told the Council during a meeting on peace and security in Africa. “It is time for the Security Council to consider concrete action.”

“Some member states are calling for a comprehensive arms embargo, while others highlight the clear and egregious violations of human rights and urge the Security Council to take effective action to ensure real accountability,” the UN said on its website. “The hours and the days ahead will be decisive for Libyans and their country, with equally important implications for the wider region,” Ban said.

“The statements and actions of the Security Council are eagerly awaited and will be closely followed throughout the region. Whatever your course, let us be mindful of the urgency of the moment,” he said.

At the same time, Libya’s top prosecutor, Abdul-Rahman al-Abbar, has resigned to join the opposition against Gaddafi. Gaddafi’s cousin and close aide, Ahmed Gadhaf al-Dam, defected to Egypt Thursday to protest against the government’s crackdown on demonstrators.

Ban is scheduled to meet US President Barack Obama in Washington Monday and expected to discuss the situation in Libya.

Meanwhile, a son of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi offered to withhold attacks on regime opponents Saturday and negotiate.

In remarks delivered late Friday, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi also denied that mercenaries have taken part in attacking protesters after witnesses said mercenaries from Chad, Mali and other African countries have been involved in attacks on protesters who are calling for Muammar Gaddafi’s ouster. “We are dealing with terrorists,” the son said. “The army decided not to attack the terrorists and give them an opportunity for negotiation. We hope to do this in a peaceful way, and we will do so by tomorrow.”

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi also vowed that the state would regain control over eastern cities. Witnesses said protesters are now in control of most of the eastern cities, including Benghazi, the second-largest city after the capital, Tripoli. “We are assured that the state will regain control over eastern cities of the country,” he said.

Muammar Gaddafi and his family insisted that Libya’s uprising was instigated by Al Qaeda terrorist agents and Islamic fundamentalists and vowed to kill opponents of the regime. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon Friday estimated the number of deaths at 1,000.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi said residents from Benghazi and other cities are complaining their living conditions have deteriorated. “Girls were prevented from going down the street, schools are closed and life is at standstill because of what they described as Islamists seizing control of the place there by force,” he claimed.

Peaceful anti-government protesters in Tripoli came under fire Friday as Muammar Gaddafi surfaced in the capital, urging supporters to kill those against him.

The violence has caused growing numbers of refugees and displaced people. Ban said Friday that 22,000 people had fled to Tunisia and 15,000 to Egypt. Governments have also ordered their citizens out of Libya and dispatched planes and ships to help them evacuate.

In separate remarks Friday, Saif al-Islam Gaddafi appealed to the European community to send an international fact-finding mission to Libya to disprove media reports about atrocities. “We are not afraid of facts,” he said in remarks broadcast by Al Jazeera. We are worried about rumors and lies because the facts are on our side.”

With inputs from IANS.

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