US closes embassy in Libya
Washington – The United States government suspended operations at its embassy in Libya today and announced sanctions against the regime of Col. Moammar Gadhafi.
The American Embassy has been “shuttered,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney announced. President Barack Obama will push both unilateral and multilateral sanctions, he added.
In addition, Washington will use the “full extent” of its intelligence capabilities to monitor Gadhafi’s regime and gather evidence of atrocities committed against the Libyan people, Carney noted.
Steps were also taken to ensure that top Gadhafi officials don’t steal Libyan financial assets in what may be their final days in power. The Treasury Department advised banks to monitor accounts held by the regime’s key political figures and to report financial transactions “that could potentially represent misappropriated or diverted state assets,” according to a government statement.
Gadhafi’s “legitimacy has been reduced to zero in the eyes” of the Libyan people, Carney told reporters. “The status quo is neither tenable nor acceptable.”
The point of U.S. action — particularly the sanctions — is to “make it clear that the regime has to stop its abuses” and end the bloodshed, Carney added. Reports from Libya suggest that possibly hundreds of protesters have been killed.
Washington also announced the suspension of all military cooperation with Libya, reversing a course of action taken after Gadhafi’s government ended its pursuit of weapons of mass destruction.
Obama will meet with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon in Washington on Monday to discuss the full range of diplomatic, legal, and other steps that may be taken to bring a halt to the violence, Carney said.
The new steps — designed to isolate Gadhafi’s government and further weaken his grip on power — were announced less than an hour after a flight chartered by the U.S. government departed Tripoli for Istanbul. The flight carried personnel from the U.S. Embassy and other American citizens.
Earlier, a ferry chartered by U.S. authorities carried roughly 300 people to Malta. (CNN)