Last Updated: Thu Feb 24, 2011 23:00 pm (KSA) 20:00 pm (GMT)

Obama consults Sarkozy & Cameron over Libya crisis


U.S. President Barack Obama talked to French President Nicolas Sarkozy and British Prime Minister David Cameron on Thursday about the crisis in Libya as Washington kept all options open, including sanctions and military action.

The United States is working to build consensus for action against Libya's government, which Obama has condemned for "outrageous" violence against its own people.

"In the face of the continuing brutal and bloody repression, and to the threatening statements of the Libyan leadership, the two presidents reiterated their demand for an immediate halt to the use of force against the civilian population," the French presidency said.

In the telephone conversation initiated by Obama, Sarkozy said France would "demand a new urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council on the situation in Libya," Sarkozy's office added in a statement.

"I'm not ruling out bilateral options," White House spokesman Jay Carney said earlier when asked whether the United States was considering military steps. "I'm not ruling anything out."

He said the situation in the North African oil-producing nation "demands quick action."

The White House spokesman said the U.S. has the capacity to act in the event of a major disruption of oil supplies caused by Middle East unrest.

The White House comments came as three Democratic lawmakers called on Obama to tap the U.S. strategic stockpile of oil reserves to keep gasoline prices low in the face of turmoil sweeping the Middle East.

Carney said the United States was "very cognizant" that oil price increases could hurt the U.S. economy. But he told reporters: "Right now, we're simply monitoring the situation and discussing with the IEA and oil-producing states what's happening in the market."

A chartered ferry to evacuate Americans from Libya remains docked in Tripoli with 285 passengers on board, including 167 U.S. citizens and 118 people of other nationalities, the State Department said.

The ferry, whose departure has been delayed for more than a day by rough seas, was expected to leave within hours if the weather permits, it said.

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will fly to Geneva for a meeting of the U.N. Human Rights Council on Monday, where she is expected to push for broad condemnation of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's bloody attempt to suppress a revolt.

"We support expelling Libya from the Human Rights Council. The Libyan government has violated the rights of its people," said State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley, saying such a step would increase Libya's international isolation.

Critics accuse the United States of reacting too slowly to Libya's unrest but analysts say the measured approach reflects Washington's wariness of being seen as acting on its own in a region where many harbor deep suspicions of U.S. motives.

"I think that the administration is conscious of the need not to be way out front in a unilateral fashion on this," said Charles Reis, director of Rand's Center for Middle East Public Policy and former senior State Department official.

"There are considerable risks to a more high-profile U.S. approach. It sets up a target."

The possibility of imposing a no-fly zone over Libya to prevent Gaddafi forces from bombing protesters has also been raised.

U.S. Defence Secretary Robert Gates said on Wednesday that France and Italy would be best placed to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya.

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