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'Appalled' US stops short of criticising leader

THE Obama administration last night condemned yesterday's "appalling" violence in Libya.

"This violence is completely unacceptable," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said. But as it sought to extricate US diplomats and other Americans safely from the violence spreading around Libya, Washington stopped short of criticising Muammar Gaddafi personally or demanding that he step down. Washington did not outline any specific steps to coerce or punish the Libyan regime.

However, in Berlin, German Chancellor Angela Merkel described Gaddafi's speech as very frightening and said he had virtually declared war on his own people.

Ms Merkel told a news conference she would support eventual sanctions against Libya if Gaddafi failed to stop the violence.

"The news we've had from Libya yesterday and today is worrying and the speech by Colonel Gaddafi this afternoon was very, very frightening, especially because he virtually declared war on his own people," Ms Merkel said.

"We urge the Libyan government to halt immediately the use of violence against its own people, and if the use of violence does not cease then Germany will exhaust every possibility to exert pressure and influence on Libya," she said.

If the Libyan government did not desist, she said, "we would then speak in favour of sanctions against Libya".

Meanwhile in Rome, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said Libya's use of violence on civilians was "unacceptable", criticising a carefully nurtured ally after coming under fire for his silence on the crisis.

"Prime Minister Berlusconi is alarmed over the escalation of clashes in Libya and for the unacceptable use of violence on the civilian population," the government said in a statement.

"The European Union and the international community must do everything to prevent the Libyan crisis from degenerating into a civil war."

And in Geneva, the UN high commissioner for human rights called yesterday for an international investigation into attacks on anti-government protesters in Libya, saying they could amount to crimes against humanity.

Navi Pillay called for rights violations to stop immediately and denounced "the reported use of machine guns, snipers and military planes against demonstrators".

Irish Independent