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Washington about to order Libya invasion: Castro

US blasts "unacceptable" Libya violence, hints of sanctions

Cuba and Nicaragua have sprung to the defense of embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi, with Fidel Castro claiming early Wednesday that Washington plans to order a NATO invasion of Libya to seize oil interests, as the U.S. slammed as "completely unacceptable" Libya's deadly crackdown on widespread protests and hinted for the possibility of sanctions against Tripoli.

"To me, it's absolutely clear that the government of the United States is not interested in peace in Libya," said the 84-year old former Cuban leader, who still heads the Cuban Communist Party.

Washington, he said, "will not hesitate to give the order for NATO to invade that rich country, perhaps in the coming hours or days."

"We will have to wait" to see the "truth or lies" behind reports of a bloody repression of protesters, who have taken to the streets in recent days in opposition to Gaddafi, Castro charged in an article written for official state media.

Human rights groups and Arab media have put the death toll at between 200 and 400 killed, accusing Libyan soldiers and mercenaries of using live fire against demonstrators.

To me, it's absolutely clear that the government of the United States is not interested in peace in Libya. Washington will not hesitate to give the order for NATO to invade that rich country, perhaps in the coming hours or days

Fidel Castro

Peru snaps ties with Libya

Peru meanwhile suspended diplomatic ties with Libya, becoming the first nation to take such a measure amid a bloody crackdown on the uprising demanding the ouster of Gaddafi after a brutal, 41-year rule.

"Peru is suspending all diplomatic relations with Libya until the violence against the people ceases," President Alan Garcia said, according to a press statement.

"Peru also strongly protests against the repression unleashed by the dictatorship of Moammar Gaddafi against the people who are demanding democratic reforms to change the government which has been led for 40 years by the same person."

Castro said he "could not imagine the Libyan leader abandoning his country and his responsibilities," in response to erroneous reports on Monday that Gaddafi had fled to Venezuela.

The pair have had good relations for decades, with Gaddafi sending a message of support after Castro fell ill in 2006 and handed power to his brother Raul.

There was no more immediate reaction to the turmoil roiling Libya from Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, Gaddafi's closest ally in the region.

But Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega defended his friend, saying he had spoken with Gaddafi, who is "waging a great battle... and in these circumstances is trying to dialogue, and defend the integrity of the nation so that it does not break up, and so that there is no anarchy."

Peru also strongly protests against the repression unleashed by the dictatorship of Moammar Gaddafi against the people who are demanding democratic reforms to change the government which has been led for 40 years by the same person

Peru President Alan Garcia

Gaddafi's regime is confronting a growing diplomatic backlash against the bloody crackdown on protesters, denouncing charges it was carrying out massacres.

The top U.N. rights official meanwhile said war crimes may have been committed as the Security Council discussed the turmoil in Libya, where Gaddafi has ruled practically unchallenged since coming to power in 1969.

And the U.N. Security Council condemned attacks by forces loyal to the strongman, deploring their "repression" and expressing "deep regret" at the hundreds of lives lost in the violence.

We will take appropriate steps in line with our policies, our values and our laws, but we're going to have to work in concert with the international community

U.S. State Secretary Hillary Clinton

"Completely unacceptable"

Washington earlier denounced Libya's deadly crackdown on widespread protests against leader Gaddafi's iron-fisted 41-year rule and weighed growing calls for sanctions on Tripoli.

"This bloodshed is completely unacceptable," warned U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who cited "reports of hundreds killed and many more injured" and declared Washington held Gaddafi's government responsible for violence.

"We will take appropriate steps in line with our policies, our values and our laws, but we're going to have to work in concert with the international community," she said during a joint appearance with Latvia's foreign minister.

Clinton told reporters that the safety of U.S. nationals inside Libya was "our highest priority" and stressed the United States was "in touch with many Libyan officials directly and indirectly and with other governments in the region to try to influence what is going on inside Libya."

"There is no ambivalence. There is no doubt in anyone's mind that the violence must stop and that the government of Libya has a responsibility to respect the universal rights of all of its citizens," she said.

While Clinton did not specify the nature of a possible U.S. response, the White House said it was considering senior U.S. Senator John Kerry's call for a package of U.S. and international economic and diplomatic sanctions.

"We're looking at his proposals but are focused today on need to end the bloodshed and for the government to respect the universal rights of the Libyan people," said President Barack Obama's chief spokesman, Jay Carney.

Possible sanctions

Kerry, a Democrat who chairs the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had urged Obama earlier to re-impose U.S. sanctions lifted under his predecessor, George W. Bush, when Tripoli agreed to dismantle its nuclear program.

The senator also called on all foreign oil companies to halt operations in Libya "until violence against civilians ceases," calling the crackdown "beyond despicable" and hoping it showed Gaddafi's rule was in its "last hours."

Kerry branded Gaddafi "irredeemable" and stressed that top Libyan military commanders risked international war crimes charges for any "acquiescence in atrocities".

The senator also urged the Arab League and African Union to take a stand, stressing: "American credibility was on the line with a key ally in Egypt, and President Obama acted with determination."

The Arab League had said it has barred Tripoli from attending its meetings "until the Libyan authorities respond to demands, guaranteeing the security and stability of its people."

U.S. Senators John McCain, a Republican, and Joe Lieberman, an independent urged Libyan officials to break with the regime and endorsed a call for a "no-fly" zone to prevent aerial reprisals against the protesters.

McCain and Lieberman were in the middle of a trip to Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, the Palestinian Territories, and Egypt to assess the past few weeks of turmoil across the volatile region.