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International Community Further Isolating Libya

UNITED NATIONS -- The international community moved to isolate Libya further on Wednesday, with France pressing for European Union sanctions and Peru severing relations against Moammar Gadhafi's government after the U.N. Security Council condemned his crackdown on government protesters.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy raised the possibility of cutting all economic and business ties between the EU and the North African nation.

"The continuing brutal and bloody repression against the Libyan civilian population is revolting," Sarkozy said in a statement. "The international community cannot remain a spectator to these massive violations of human rights."

Peru announced Tuesday it was suspending diplomatic relations with Libya and would ask the Security Council to establish an exclusion zone in Libyan airspace "to prevent the use of that country's warplanes against (its) population." The statement was posted by President Alan Garcia's website.

The Libyan Embassy in Austria on Wednesday joined several other Libyan missions that have already distanced themselves from Gadhafi's government and condemned the use of "excessive violence against peaceful demonstrators."

The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday deplored the Libyan government's repression against its people and demanded that the violence cease immediately.

Issued late Tuesday following several hours of closed consultations, the council press statement came after Gadhafi vowed in a television address to keep fighting to his "last drop of blood" and urged his supporters to take to the streets, raising fears of unrestrained violence.

Gadhafi's security forces already have unleashed the most deadly crackdown of any Arab country in a wave of protests sweeping the Middle East. Nearly 300 people have been killed, according to a partial count by the New York-based Human Rights Watch.

In a strong message to Libya from its neighbors, the 22-member Arab League on Tuesday barred the country from attending meetings of the bloc until it ends its violent crackdown, calling the use of military forces against protesters "a grave violation" of human rights and international law.

A League statement read out by Secretary-General Amr Moussa in Cairo strongly condemned what it called crimes against civilians, the recruiting of foreign mercenaries and the use of live ammunition and heavy weapons by Libyan forces. Its censure did not amount to a suspension of Libya's membership in the organization.

Security Council members drew from the Arab League statement when formulating their own, saying that the Libyan government should "meet its responsibility to protect its population," act with restraint, and respect human rights and international humanitarian law. They said the Libyan government should hold accountable those people, including government forces, who have attacked civilians.

International human rights monitors and humanitarian agencies should be given immediate access, council members said. They appealed for humanitarian assistance amid reports of shortages of medical supplies to treat the wounded.

Council members also said Libyan government should respect the rights of its citizens to peaceful assembly, free expression and press freedom.

British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, among five permanent council members with veto power, called the statement "extremely strong" and indicated more action was likely, including possible action next week by the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. There have been demands that Libya's seat on the rights council be withdrawn.

"No doubt we will be meeting again and reviewing what further measures may be appropriate in the light of events," Lyall Grant said.

The international community has spoken in "one clear and unified voice" for the bloodshed in Libya to end, said Ambassador Rosemary DiCarlo, deputy representative for the U.S., another permanent council member. She said her country hoped for "an immediate end to this unacceptable situation," echoing U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's comments in Washington Tuesday.

Some considered the press statement too weak, saying a stronger "presidential statement," which becomes part of the council's record, and sanctions are necessary.

Philippe Bolopion, the U.N. advocacy director for Human Rights Watch, said the action was a "positive first step" that nevertheless "falls short of the firm action needed to prevent large-scale atrocities." He said the body should also impose a travel ban and asset freeze on senior Libyan officials and military commanders found responsible for grave human rights violations.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has used unusually strong language about the crackdown, saying he is "outraged." Ban spoke to Gadhafi on Monday for 40 minutes and "forcefully urged him to stop violence against demonstrators and again strongly underlined the importance of respecting the human rights of those demonstrators."

Libya's deputy U.N. ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi, who has called for Gadhafi to step down, said the Security Council statement wasn't strong enough but still "a good message to the regime in Libya about stopping the bloodshed."

Dabbashi and other diplomats at Libya's U.N. mission are at odds with Ambassador Mohamed Shalgham, who on Tuesday called Gadhafi "my friend" and said he had been speaking hourly with top government officials appealing for the violence to end.

In signs of waning support for the Libyan strongman inside his own government, the Libyan ambassador to the U.S. has also urged Gadhafi to step down, and the ambassadors to India and Bangladesh have resigned.

"There's no other solution," Ambassador Ali Aujali, Libya's ambassador in Washington, told The Associated Press. "He should step down and give the chance for the people to make their future."

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