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EU votes to sanction Libya as Clinton mounts diplomatic offensive

By Joby Warrick
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, February 28, 2011; 8:51 AM

GENEVA - The European Union voted Monday to adopt sanctions against Libya that included an arms embargo, an asset freeze and a visa ban, wire services reported.

The decision came in Brussels, as U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton met with European foreign ministers in this Swiss capital to discuss the crisis in Libya that has resulted from embattled dictator Moammar Gaddafi's bloody suppression of an anti-government rebellion.

Clinton was due to give a speech in Geneva about 9:30 a.m. Washington time, and to take questions from reporters after that.

On Sunday, she said the United States has begun to reach out to some of the Libyan opposition groups encircling Gaddafi, and hoped to lead a new diplomatic offensive to force the Libyan leader to quit.

A day after the U.N. Security Council approved economic and military sanctions against the Libyan government, Clinton also stepped up calls for Gaddafi's ouster and for a legal reckoning for Libyan officials accused of killing hundreds of protesters in the past two weeks.

"I want to underscore this unanimous message from the Security Council to those who are around Gaddafi: You will be held accountable for the actions that are being taken and have been taken against your own people," Clinton said Sunday as she departed Washington for a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council.

Her discussions Monday were to focus on ways to increase pressure on Gaddafi while taking steps to deal with a worsening refugee and humanitarian crisis.

The EU sanctions echoed those adopted Saturday by the United Nations, and included measures to ban the sale of any equipment that Gaddafi could use to repress those who participate in the uprising, the Associated Press reported.

As rebel factions closed in on the Libyan capital, Clinton disclosed that the administration is now in communication with some of the opposition groups amid efforts to help minimize bloodshed and ensure an orderly transition. A former Libyan justice minister claimed last week to have established a provisional government in rebel-held Benghazi, but Clinton did not specifically endorse any of the numerous factions that have taken up arms against Gaddafi.

"We've been reaching out to many different Libyans who are attempting to organize in the east," Clinton told reporters. "It's way too soon to tell how this is going to play out, but we're going to be ready and prepared to offer any kind of assistance that anyone wishes to have from the United States."

Clinton is using the Geneva trip to rally international support for a campaign of steadily increasing economic and diplomatic pressure against Libya.

"Our goal is to multilateralize," a senior Obama administration official said on Sunday as Clinton headed for Europe. "It is no secret that the European Union has done more commerce with Gaddafi and has more-established relationships."

In Washington, some members of Congress have called for even tougher measures against Gaddafi. Sens. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and Joseph I. Lieberman (I-Conn.), speaking on CNN's "State of the Union" in a pre-taped interview from Cairo, called for a no-fly zone over Libya.

"Now is the time for action, not just statements," Lieberman said.

Lieberman said the White House response was too slow, though he acknowledged that the administration had been cautious due to safety concerns for Americans still in Libya.

McCain also appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press," where he urged the administration to recognize the provisional government in eastern Libya.

Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md) , speaking on C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" program, said a no-fly zone is "something that needs to be looked at... I wouldn't recommend the United States do this in any unilateral fashion, but to the extent that the international community, and NATO especially, believe it is necessary, that is something that certainly should be on the plate and considered.

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