U.S. President Barack Obama delivered his strongest condemnation of Libya to date on Wednesday, saying that he had ordered his national security team to prepare the full range of options for dealing with the crisis.
“The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and unacceptable," said Obama, "these actions violate international norms and common decency, it must stop. We strongly support the universal rights of the Libyan people.”
The American president said that those responsible for violence must be held accountable, adding that “the entire world is watching”.
Obama urged an end to attacks on peaceful protesters but stopped short of calling for Libyan leader Muammar Gadhafi to step down as ruler of the oil-producing North African nation and did not lay out any specific measures under consideration against the Libyan government.
"It is imperative that the nations and peoples of the world speak with one voice," Obama told reporters in his first public comments on the turmoil in Libya, where leader Muammar Gadhafi is facing a revolt against his 41-year rule.
He added that Washington is coordinating further steps with allies and the international community.
President Barack Obama delivered his statement with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton by his side, and announced that he is dispatching Clinton to Geneva for international talks aimed at stopping the bloodshed.
Obama stressed that the uprisings in region are being driven by the people, not by “the United States or any foreign power.”
Obama broke his public silence on the week-long violence after the U.S. succeeded in beginning evacuations of American citizens from the chaotic situation. Obama has faced criticism in some quarters for not speaking out sooner, but U.S. officials say they have tempered their response to ensure Americans in Libya were safely evacuated and out of harm's way.
U.S. officials reported that inclement weather has delayed a ferry from taking American citizens out of Libya to safety.
State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley says high seas have kept the boat in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.
He said Wednesday U.S. citizens are safe on board the boat and will leave for Malta when weather permits.
The president said that the United States' top priority is the safety of its citizens, urging all Americans in Libya to leave. He added that the State Department is currently assisting those in need of support.
The Obama administration said earlier that it was looking at imposing sanctions on Libya to punish it for a violent crackdown on protesters seeking Gadhafi's ouster.
The State Department said freezing Libyan assets, including those belonging to Gadhafi, were among the options being considered, and some U.S. lawmakers have urged direct action such as imposing no-fly zones.
Despite these considerations, U.S. options to influence events in Libya are limited, unlike in Egypt and Bahrain where Washington was able to use the leverage of being a long-time ally and benefactor.
The U.S. President concluded saying that "throughout this time of transition, the United States will continue to stand up for freedom, stand up for justice, and stand up for the dignity of all people."
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