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U.S. closes embassy in Tripoli, prepares sanctions

By William Branigin
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, February 25, 2011; 11:58 PM

The Obama administration announced Friday that it is finalizing sanctions against the regime of Libyan strongman Moammar Gaddafi and has temporarily closed the U.S. Embassy in strife-tornTripoli.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States also has suspended limited U.S. military cooperation with Libya, including the sales of spare parts, and has asked financial institutions to be on the lookout for efforts by senior Libyan officials to move out money obtained from plundering state assets, taking bribes or engaging in other corruption.

Carney told reporters that President Obama would meet with the U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon in Washington Monday to discuss the situation in Libya.

He condemned the "gross and systematic human rights abuses now being committed" by the Gaddafi regime and said the United States was "utilizing the full extent of its intelligence capability" to monitor those actions.

"We have decided to move forward with unilateral sanctions, which we are in the process of finalizing, coordinated sanctions with our European allies, and multilateral efforts to hold the Libyan government accountable through the United Nations," Carney said.

"We are initiating a series of steps at the unilateral level and the multilateral level to pressure the regime in Libya to stop killing its own people," he added. "This is a first step, and obviously we continue to review our options going forward."

Carney spoke after a U.S. charter plane took off from Tripoli en route to Istanbul with remaining U.S. Embassy personnel and American citizens who had requested evacuation.

In Istanbul, the senior official in charge of the U.S. Embassy in Tripoli said on CNN that as many as 90 American citizens who had wanted to evacuate were unable to reach the airport Friday.

"We'll make a concerted effort to get everyone out," said Joan Polaschik, the embassy's charge d'affaires. She said a first team of embassy staffers arrived at the airport with no problem Friday, but a second team "almost got caught in a firefight."

Earlier, a U.S.-chartered passenger ferry arrived Friday evening at a port on the Mediterranean island of Malta with more than 300 evacuees, including at least 167 U.S. citizens. Among them were nonessential embassy staff and dependents who had been waiting three days to evacuate.

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