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U.S. To Impose Sanctions On Libya; Embassy Closed

The United States has closed its embassy in Libya's capital of Tripoli, and will impose unilateral sanctions to protest Libya's crackdown on opposition protesters.

Here's an excerpt from a Newscast report filed by Scott Horsley from the White House:

In addition to unilateral sanctions, the United States is negotiating with its allies over a possible weapons embargo against Libya, and a freeze on Libyan assets.

White House spokesman Jay Carney says President Obama held off announcing the moves until a planeload of American evacuees had safely left Libya, en route to Istanbul.

"The focus that he has is on our obligation to the security of American citizens, and also getting the policy right."

Carney says U.S. intelligence will be monitoring any further atrocities against the Libyan people, and that those responsible for such actions will be held accountable.

The president is expected to speak about actions his administration is taking against the government of Moammar Gadhafi later this afternoon.

Earlier Friday, hundreds of Americans who had been trapped in Libya arrived safely in Malta. Many of them had been stranded in a Libyan port as bad weather prevented their chartered ferry from leaving.

International sanctions against Libya will be discussed when the United Nations Security Council holds a special meeting Friday. The UPI reports that "U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will lead the 15-member meeting, said France's U.N. mission, which requested the session."

Updated at 5:40 pm ET: It may not be until Monday that President Obama lays out the specifics of the U.S. sanctions. That's when he will speak with U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon. The president spoke with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan about the U.S. position Friday.

Friday afternoon, White House spokesman Jay Carney said that the legitimacy of Gadhafi's rule in Libya has now been "reduced to zero." The sharper words came hours after the last group of U.S. citizens were evacuated from Libya.

In a live address Wednesday, Obama demanded that the violence against Libyan civilians be stopped — but he declined to mention Gadhafi by name.

A story by the AP provides more detail about Libya's financial holdings — and suggests how the United States might seek to hurt the Gadhafi regime:

According to a confidential U.S. State Department cable posted by WikiLeaks, the head of the Libyan Investment Authority said last year that "several" United States banks manage between $300 million and $500 million in Libyan assets. According to the cable, Mohamed Layas told U.S. Ambassador Gene Kretz that the country's so-called sovereign wealth fund, which invests Libya's enormous oil profits, had $32 billion in cash and other liquid assets.

The U.S. Treasury has also alerted American banks that they should be on the lookout for any transactions that might signal the misuse of Libya's financial holdings.

The AP article also cites the Sovereign Wealth Fund Institute, a research group based in Canada, which estimates that Libya's Investment Authority "controls total assets of $70 billion, making it the 13th largest such fund in the world."

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.