Hillary Clinton - Reuters - 23/2/2011
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at the State Department in Washington, February 23, 2011. Photo by Reuters
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U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Sunday the United States was reaching out to Libyan opposition groups seeking to oust longtime leader Muammar Gadhafi.

Clinton spoke shortly before leaving for Geneva, where she will meet with European allies and envoys from Arab and African countries in hopes of agreeing on a common response to the rebellion that threatens to end Gadhafi's 41-year rule.

The trip comes a day after the United Nations Security Council unanimously imposed a travel ban and froze the assets of Gadhafi and his family.

"We are reaching out to many different Libyans in the east as the revolution moves westward there as well," Clinton said, referring to opposition groups. "... It is too soon to see how this is going to play out."

A spokesman for the new National Libyan Council, which formed in the eastern city of Benghazi after it was taken over by anti- Gadhafi forces, said his group did not want foreign intervention.

As Gadhafi's opponents made gains near the capital city Tripoli, Clinton said the UN resolution was a message to Gadhafi and those around him that they "will be held accountable for the actions that are being taken and have been taken against Libyan people."

Clinton said the United States was not negotiating with Gadhafi.

"We want him to leave and we want him to end his regime and call off the mercenaries and troops who remain loyal to him," she said. "How he manages that is up to him."

U.S. officials say Clinton's trip to Geneva is aimed at coordinating the international response to Libya's crisis, with Washington insisting that the world "speak with one voice" on stemming the violence and bringing Gadhafi to justice.

The resolution adopted by the 15-nation UN council also called for the immediate referral of the deadly crackdown to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for investigation and possible prosecution of anyone responsible for killing civilians.

The Obama administration has been criticized by human rights groups and others for moving too slowly to condemn Libya, the latest country hit by spreading turmoil and anti-government protests across the Middle East and North Africa. But White House officials said fears for the safety of Americans in the country had tempered Washington's response.

Washington announced a series of sanctions against Libya on Friday after a chartered ferry and a plane carrying Americans and other evacuees left Libya.

Washington is considering steps including sanctions and a "no-fly" zone to try to stop Gadhafi's suppression of anti-government protests, which diplomats estimate has killed about 2,000 people in two weeks of violence.

While Western governments are trying to ratchet up pressure, it remains unclear how long Gadhafi, with some thousands of loyalists, might hold out against rebel forces comprised of youthful gunmen and mutinous soldiers.