Fri February 25, 2011

Diplomats Push For Way To Stop Bloodshed In Libya

From Brussels to Geneva to New York, diplomats have been scrambling to come up with ways to stop the bloodshed in Libya.

The United States is imposing targeted sanctions and working with others to try to step up the pressure on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's regime.

The U.N.'s top human-rights official says the world must "step in vigorously" to protect Libyan protesters.

Navi Pillay, the U.N. high commissioner for human rights, says witnesses have been reporting horrifying scenes from Libya and thousands may have been killed or injured in the ongoing crackdown.

"In brazen and continuing breach of international law, the crackdown in Libya of peaceful demonstrations is escalating alarmingly with reported mass killings, arbitrary arrests, detention and torture of protesters," Pillay says. "Tanks, helicopters and military aircraft have reportedly been used indiscriminately to attack the protesters."

She says doctors are reporting that most victims have been shot in the head, chest or neck — suggesting summary executions. The Human Rights Council in Geneva unanimously agreed to launch an immediate investigation into the abuses. Pillay says everyone must do more — especially Libya's neighbors — to protect people who have been calling out for help.

"We owe them our solidarity and protection from violence," she says.

Calls For Action

There was a dramatic moment at the meeting when Libya's representative, Abdel Shaltut, announced that more diplomats are breaking ranks with Gadhafi's regime.

"I wish to emphasize and underscore that we in the Libyan mission have categorically decided to serve as representatives of the Libyan people and their free will," he said through an interpreter. "We only represent the Libyan people."

At the U.N. in New York, another Libyan diplomat no longer representing Gadhafi called for immediate sanctions and an arms embargo — actions now being considered by the U.N. Security Council.

In Brussels, NATO also held urgent talks on Libya on Friday to be prepared "for any eventuality." Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says the alliance can help coordinate an international response — once members decide what they want to do. But for now, he says, many NATO members are just trying to get their citizens out of harm's way.

"Clearly, priority must be given to evacuation and possibly also humanitarian assistance," he says.

U.S. Working On Sanctions

The United States managed to evacuate Americans by air and by sea Friday. And White House spokesman Jay Carney says the U.S. has now closed its embassy in Tripoli. He says the Obama administration is working on sanctions and warning banks to look out for suspicious Libyan activities.

Carney says the United States is keeping a close watch on Gadhafi.

"The United States is utilizing the full extent of its intelligence capabilities to monitor the Gadhafi regime's actions," he says. "And we are particularly vigilant for evidence of further violence or atrocities committed against the Libyan people."

President Obama, Carney adds, continues to work the phones, talking with the leaders of Britain, France, Italy and Turkey to coordinate an international response. Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.