GENEVA – The European Union slapped its own arms embargo, visa ban and other sanctions Monday on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's regime, part of an escalating global effort to halt a bloody crackdown on his critics in the North African nation.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton came to Geneva on Monday to press EU diplomats, including Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton, for stronger action against Gadhafi's regime.
Even before Ashton announced the new sanctions, France pledged to send two planes with humanitarian aid to Libya's opposition stronghold of Benghazi while Germany mulled a two-month cutoff of oil payments to Gadhafi's regime. This came after days of increasing concern about the hundreds, and potentially thousands, of deaths caused by Gadhafi's military resistance against the popular uprising in his country.
"The massive violence against peaceful demonstrators shocks our conscience. It should also spring us into action," Ashton told the Human Rights Council.
Ashton said the European measures, including a freeze on assets, aimed to reinforce U.N. Security Council sanctions against Libya approved over the weekend. The EU action was significant because Europe has much more leverage over Libya than the United States — 85 percent of Libyan oil goes to Europe and Gadhafi and his family are thought to have significant assets in Britain, Switzerland and Italy. Switzerland and Britain have already hit Libya with a freeze on assets.
The EU also embargoed any equipment that could be "used for internal repression," Ashton said, urging nations to coordinate actions to help people across North Africa and the Middle East.
A more complex set of negotiations, she added, were being held over the possibility of creating a no-fly zone over Libya.
Gadhafi's government has been in power since 1969, but Clinton told the U.N.'s Human Rights Council that he and his allies have "lost the legitimacy to govern" by reportedly executing soldiers who refused to turn their guns on civilians and other severe human rights abuses. The council itself has recommended suspending Libya as a member.
"Governments that turn their guns on their own people have no place in this chamber," Clinton said, adding the U.S. would continue to "explore all options ... nothing is off the table" in dealing with Libya's human rights abuses.
In Paris, French Prime Minister Francois Fillon said planes were taking off for the eastern city of Benghazi with doctors, nurses, medicines and medical equipment.
"It will be the beginning of a massive operation of humanitarian support for the populations of liberated territories," he said on RTL radio. "(France is studying) all the options to make Colonel Gadhafi understand that he should go."
Germany's foreign minister, Guido Westerwelle, said the EU should consider a total ban on payments to Libya, including for oil deliveries from there. But he said Germany wants a 60-day ban on payments to Libya to prevent Gadhafi and his family from receiving any fresh funds.