The United States moved to increase diplomatic pressure on the embattled Libyan government of Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi on Friday, suspending relations and preparing to impose unilateral sanctions because of the deadly violence the Libyan government has directed at protesters in the country.
Jay Carney, the White House press secretary, told reporters that the sanctions would be announced soon, but gave no specifics. Mr. Carney said the American embassy in Tripoli “has been shuttered” and that diplomatic and military-to-military relations were suspended. Much of the remaining embassy staff was evacuated along with other Americans on a ferry that left Tripoli for Malta on Friday after days of delay caused by bad weather.
American allies and the United Nations also moved to isolate Libya diplomatically on Friday. A senior U.N. official said the world should intervene to stop the killings and bloodshed in Libya, and France and Britain called on the international organization to approve an arms embargo and sanctions. NATO said it was ready to help to evacuate refugees.
“In brazen and continuing breach of international law, the crackdown in Libya on peaceful demonstrations is escalating alarmingly with reported mass killings, arbitrary arrests, detention and torture of prisoners,” said Navi Pillay, the United Nations High Commissioner on Human Rights, at an emergency session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in Geneva.
The Human Rights Council voted unanimously on Friday to suspend Libya’s membership in the council, but not before a junior official of the Libyan mission took the floor to announce that he and his colleagues had resigned after deciding to side with the Libyan people…
But it was far from clear what effective steps the Security Council or the United Nations could take, short of military intervention, to stop the killings in Libya.
The United Nations Security Council will discuss a proposal backed by France and Britain for actions against Libyan leaders, including a possible arms embargo and financial sanctions. No definitive move was expected until next week, and sanctions are unlikely to have any quick impact.
The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, has said the bloc should consider an arms embargo, travel restrictions and an asset freeze against Libya to try to halt the violence. Britain and Switzerland have frozen Colonel Qaddafi’s assets. But Ms. Ashton said she would wait for the Security Council’s decisions in order to coordinate any actions.
A “no-fly zone” over Libya, as some have suggested to prevent the use of military aircraft against demonstrators, would require a Security Council resolution first, diplomats said.