US mulling sanctions against Libya

Washington: The US has backed a European proposal to expel Libya from the UN`s top human rights body as it stepped up efforts to impose sanctions on the Gaddafi regime, consulting key allies like France, UK and Italy to hammer out a strategy aimed at stopping violence in that country.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, at the direction of President Barack Obama, is travelling to Geneva on February 27-28 to address a meeting of the UN Human Rights Council and mobilise the international community against the Muammar Gaddafi regime of Libya.

"While in Geneva, she will hold consultations with her counterparts on the situation in Libya and events and trends in the broader Middle East," State Department spokesman P J Crowley said.

Crowley said the Obama administration supported a European proposal for the UN Human Rights Council to recommend Libya`s expulsion.

The US also appeared to be moving ahead with proposals to impose sanctions on the authoritarian Gaddafi regime. A meeting in this regard was held at the White House which among others was attended by Tom Malinowski of the Human Rights Watch.

It is believed that while the US Treasury Department is looking into the possibility of slapping unilateral sanctions on Libya, it would also support a EU resolution to be tabled by France, its current President, at the UN Security Council.

The move to slap sanctions gained momentum after Obama spoke with his key European allies over phone – French President Nicolas Sarkozy, British Premier David Cameroon and Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi.

In a statement, the White House said the leaders discussed a range of options that both the US and European countries are preparing to hold the Libyan government accountable for its actions, as well as planning for humanitarian assistance.

"In line with the statement that was unanimously adopted by the Council on February 22, concrete measures are now necessary, notably to permit immediate access to humanitarian assistance and to sanction those responsible for the violence against Libya`s civilian population," said a statement issued by the office of the French President following the telephonic conversation.

Earlier in the day, White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said the US is closely looking into sanctions.

"We`re examining a lot of options — sanctions are one of them, but I don`t want to specify that one is going to happen and one`s not going to happen. We`re working with our partners on that," he added.

Carney said there are no options that the US is taking off the table.