Any decision to impose a no-fly zone over battle-torn Libya should be taken by the United Nations and "not the United States", U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said.
"I think it's very important that it is not a U.S.-led effort because this comes from the people of Libya themselves, This doesn't come from the outside, this doesn't come from some Western power or some Gulf country saying 'This is what you should do'," Clinton told Sky News late on Tuesday.
"We think it is important that the United Nations make that decision… We want to see the international community support it."
Crisis could be protracted
Forces loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi are trying to suppress a revolt against his 41-year rule.
Clinton said the crisis could be protracted.
"We've called for Colonel Gaddafi to leave. We believe that he has totally given up any legitimacy to power. When a leader turns against his own people, that is the end. But we know that there is a long road ahead for being able to try to resolve this."
"We'd like to see this resolved peacefully. We would like to see him (Gaddafi) go peacefully. We would like to see a new government come peacefully," Clinton said.
"But if that's not possible, then we are going to work with the international community. Now there are countries that do not agree with that and we think it's important that the United Nations make this decision, not the United States. So far the United Nations has not done that," she said.
Asked about the possibility of lifting a recently imposed arms embargo on Libya and supporting the rebels, Clinton said:
"Everything is being looked at. It is difficult in the midst of this civil conflict that's going on now to even know how you would do that, because right now it's not clear what part of the country is actually under rebel control."
Western allies divided
Britain and France are working on a U.N. Security Council resolution establishing a no-fly zone over Libya which they could put forward if they believed conditions warranted it.
But Western allies still appear divided over the wisdom of a no-fly zone and how it would be implemented, and there are doubts over whether China and Russia would support a Security Council resolution authorizing such a zone.
Pressed on whether the United States would support a no-fly zone, Clinton said: "We are going to support the efforts that are being made because we think that the people of Libya themselves have to be supported and we know how difficult this struggle is."
U.S. President Barack Obama and British Prime Minister David Cameron agreed in a telephone call on Tuesday to press forward with planning on a range of possible responses to the Libyan crisis, including a no-fly zone, the White House said.
Clinton's remarks echoed earlier comments from British Foreign Secretary William Hague.
"There must be a demonstrable need that is accepted broadly by the international community, as well as the strong international support that would come from that," Hague said.
Republican senator John McCain later told BBC's Newsnight program that the U.S. should consider immediate action.
"People are being massacred. Isn't it an obligation that the world has to stop a mad dictator from massacring his own people?" asked the 2008 presidential candidate.
"If we don't have the military capability to take on their defenses and their air force, then we have wasted a great deal of American treasure. We can handle the Libyan air force and defenses, I know we can," he added.