Libya: Barack Obama announces Gaddafi sanctions

Image caption,
Mr Obama said the sanctions aimed to protecting assets that belonged to the people of Libya

US President Barack Obama has announced sanctions against the Libyan government, blocking transactions involving assets of Col Gaddafi and several of his close associates.

Mr Obama signed an executive order freezing the assets of Colonel Gaddafi and members of his immediate family.

The White House said the move aimed to pressure Libya to stop violently repressing the popular uprising there.

A spokesman said it was made "in concert with international partners".

"The Libyan government's continued violation of human rights, brutalization of its people, and outrageous threats have rightly drawn the strong and broad condemnation of the international community," said Mr Obama in a statement.

"These sanctions therefore target the Gaddafi government, while protecting the assets that belong to the people of Libya."

Earlier, at a hastily organised news conference at the UN in New York, Libyan deputy ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi described Col Gaddafi, who has been in power for 42 years, as a "madman".

He warned that thousands would die in Tripoli because the Libyan leader would never flee and would fight to the end.

'Violence or atrocities'

The sanctions were announced after reports from the Libyan capital said anti-government protesters in Tripoli had come under heavy gunfire.

There are reports of deaths and injuries, but no reliable information about casualties.

Protests in the city resumed as those seeking the overthrow of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi emerged from mosques following Friday prayers.

The people of Libya have expressed that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's continued use of "deadly violence" is unacceptable, Mr Carney said.

Earlier on Friday, White House spokesman Jay Carney said the US was acting to cut off limited military assistance to Libya and had placed financial institutions on notice to watch for the sudden movement of funds from the country.

The US would not take any options off the table in regard to its response to the violence in Libya, including potential US military action, Mr Carney said.

Media caption,
White House spokesman Jay Carney: "The steps we take in the near future are not the only steps we are prepared to take"

"The United States is committed to utilizing the full extent of its capabilities to monitor the Gaddafi regime's behaviour to ensure that evidence is gathered of further violence or atrocities committed against the Libyan people," Mr Carney said.

"Colonel Gaddafi has lost the confidence of his people," he added, saying the leader's legitimacy has been "reduced to zero".

The Obama administration has been criticised for not responding swiftly enough to the turmoil in Libya, and Mr Carney's announcement is being seen as a significant shift in Washington's stance on the violence.

The sanctions were announced after the last known US citizens in Libya were evacuated from the country.

A boat chartered by the US carrying more than 300 evacuees reached the safe shores of the Mediterranean island of Malta, and a chartered plane also flew US citizens out of the country and to Turkey.

Britain and India have also sent warships to Libya to carry foreign nationals to safety, while hundreds of sub-Saharan Africans are said to be fleeing southern Libya into Niger.

Isolating military leaders

The UN Security Council met on Friday in New York to discuss options to respond to Libya's repression against its people.

Diplomats said Britain and France had drawn up a draft resolution with a package of measures aimed at isolating Libya's political and military leaders.

Meanwhile, Libyan state television showed pictures of Col Gaddafi addressing a large crowd in Tripoli's Green Square.

He was shown speaking from the old city ramparts and urging the crowd to arm themselves and defend the nation and its oil against anti-government protesters who have taken control of large parts of the country.

"This is the people that brought Italy to its knees," he said, referring to the overthrow of Libya's colonial rulers. "I am amid the masses, and we shall fight, and we shall defeat them."

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