‘Unacceptable bloodshed’ must stop, Clinton tells government
WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the violence against antigovernment protesters in Libya yesterday and called on the government of Moammar Khadafy to end the attacks.
“Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed,’’ Clinton said in what amounted to the toughest denunciation of the crackdown in Libya by the Obama administration yet.
Clinton said the world is watching event unfold in Libya “with alarm.’’ The strongly worded statement came amid signs that Khadafy’s autocratic hold on the country was weakening.
Still, reports from Tripoli depicted a chaotic scene of low-flying warplanes, snipers atop rooftops, and armed men firing indiscriminately on protesters.
At least 220 people have been killed, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.
The White House said yesterday that officials were analyzing a speech by Khadafy’s son Saif al-Islam to determine whether it held possibilities for democratic changes in Libya.
The rambling speech warned that his family “will fight to the last minute, until the last bullet.’’ But he also offered to initiate reforms within days if the protests stop and voiced a willingness to remove some restrictions.
A White House official said the administration was seeking clarification from senior Libyan officials about the government’s intentions. The official spoke yesterday on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
The official said President Obama was briefed by National Security Adviser Tom Donilon late Sunday and was being kept abreast of events throughout yesterday. The official said the Obama administration is considering “all appropriate actions.’’
Meanwhile, the State Department has ordered all embassy family members and nonemergency personnel to depart Libya and is warning American travelers of the potential for ongoing unrest in the African nation.
The State Department said US citizens should exercise extreme caution and should avoid areas where demonstrations are likely to occur. US citizens outside Libya are urged to defer all travel to Libya. The department said there is no indication that Westerners are being threatened or targeted at this time.
In her statement, Clinton said the Khadafy government must respect universal rights, including the right of free expression and assembly. She said the Obama administration is working with international allies to convey the message to the Libyan government.
Many European countries also have urged their citizens to avoid nonessential travel to Libya, or recommended that those there leave on commercial flights. But as Libya’s bloody crackdown against protesters moved to the capital, they sent planes and ferries to Libya to evacuate their citizens, and some oil and gas companies pulled their foreign staff out and suspended operations.
Oil companies, including Italy’s
Portugal and Austria sent C-130 planes to pick up their citizens and other EU nationals, and Turkey sent two ferries to fetch construction workers stranded by the unrest. The Dutch government was seeking clearance to send a military plane to evacuate its citizens today, and Russian gas company Gazprom was dispatching a plane that was due to return today.
Foreign Trade Minister Zafer Caglayan of Turkey said four planes were on standby, while Turkey is also considering evacuating some of its citizens by land.
Britain said the families of its embassy staff would leave Libya on commercial flights when possible, though a British official said they are not considering any government-organized evacuation.