PARIS – Libya's regime might have to face international justice for its deadly crackdown on protesters, France said Thursday, as diplomats debated how best to pressure strongman Moammar Gadhafi into halting attacks on his countrymen.
NATO's chief, meanwhile, said the military alliance will stay out of the conflict. NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said during a visit to Ukraine that the alliance "has no plans to intervene."
"We have not received any requests in that respect. And anyway, any action should be based on a clear U.N. mandate," he said Thursday.
French Defense Minister Alain Juppe said the possibility of any foreign military intervention in the North African nation wasn't on the table, but added "I sincerely hope that Gadhafi is in his final moments as chief of state."
France has been criticized for its initial cautious response to the rash of protest movements sweeping the Arab world, and two powerful French government figures faced criticism for vacations they took in Tunisia and Egypt weeks before protesters toppled authoritarian regimes there. The French prime minister's family getaway in Egypt was partly paid for by Hosni Mubarak's former government.
Trying to make up for such diplomatic embarrassments, France has taken a tough tone on Libya in recent days and has been pushing for EU sanctions.
The French Foreign Ministry said that "all options should be studied, including bringing the case before the international justice system." The ministry's response did not mention Gadhafi or any other figures by name.
France's defense minister told France Inter radio it is worth considering the creation of a no-fly zone over Libya, a suggestion gaining ground lately.He also said the EU was looking at financial, trade and political sanctions, and said it was worth considering a freeze on purchasing Libyan oil.
Oil prices shot as high as $103 a barrel on Thursday amid the chaos in Libya.
British Prime Minister David Cameron warned that Gadhafi's continued violence against protesters in Libya was "completely unacceptable."
"It must stop and, as I am absolutely clear, if it does not stop there will be consequences," Cameron said, speaking in Doha on a tour of the Middle East and Gulf.
Italy, whose islands are just a few hundred miles (kilometers) from the Libyan coast, is worried about immigration. Its interior minister said Thursday that Libya's pro-democracy unrest could create a humanitarian crisis that sends a million refugees fleeing across the Mediterranean to Europe.
"This is not just a problem for Italy and the Mediterranean countries, it's a problem for Europe and the world," said Italian Interior Minister Roberto Maroni. "This is a catastrophic humanitarian emergency."
But other EU ministers said the situation should not be over-dramatized, and that far fewer refugees than expected have arrived in Europe so far.
After a meeting of EU ambassadors Wednesday, the bloc did not announce sanctions against Libya, but EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the EU stood "ready to take further measures." Details were still being negotiated, amid concerns about getting up to 10,000 EU citizens out of Libya safely.
The United States has also said it is considering sanctions.
Italy's foreign minister has said estimates of some 1,000 people killed in the violence in Libya were "credible," although he stressed that information about casualties was incomplete.