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U.S. imposes sanctions on Libya

Narayan Lakshman

Washington: After days of prevarication through the peak of the Libyan crisis, the United States government finally moved on Friday evening to impose unilateral sanctions against the regime of Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi.

The move came even as the United Nations Security Council planned to reconvene on the subject of violence and the consequent prospect of U.N. sanctions.

In a statement on Friday, U.S. President Barack Obama said: “The Libyan government's continued violation of human rights, brutalisation of its people, and outrageous threats have rightly drawn the strong and broad condemnation of the international community.”

Mr. Obama said his administration would work closely with the U.N. and allies to coordinate punitive actions.

Meanwhile the UNSC, including India, contemplated further sanctions against the Qadhafi government for its violent repression of protesters in Tripoli and elsewhere.

Maria Luiza Ribetro Viotti, who holds the rotating UNSC presidency for February, said in a statement the Council was poised to consider a draft resolution on Saturday and action was “possible” against Tripoli given “there is a sense of urgency”.

Ms. Viotti warned the situation in Libya was deteriorating with reported violations of human rights, adding: “The [UNSC] draft resolution includes targeted measures aimed at putting an end to violence and [achieving] a peaceful solution to the current crisis, and ensuring accountability of the Libyan people.”

In imposing a freeze on all assets and property of certain individuals and institutions linked to the Qadhafi regime, Mr. Obama said his administration had found “Colonel Muammar Qadhafi, his government, and close associates have taken extreme measures against the people of Libya, including by using weapons of war, mercenaries, and wanton violence against unarmed civilians”.

In the order, Mr. Obama said he found “there is a serious risk that Libyan state assets will be misappropriated by Qadhafi, members of his government, members of his family, or his close associates if those assets are not protected”.

Given these circumstances, and the fact that growing numbers of Libyans were seeking refuge in other countries, Libya posed a serious risk to to the national security and foreign policy of the U.S., Mr. Obama concluded, and this justified the imposition of sanctions.Meanwhile the State Department confirmed that it had completed the withdrawal of its embassy personnel from Tripoli and suspended all embassy operations effective February 25.

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