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Clinton: "No option is off the table" on Libya

GENEVA - After a day of discussions with European allies in Switzerland, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said Monday that "no option is off the table" for dealing with Libyan leader Muammar al Qaddafi.

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Clinton would not discuss military options in detail. However, she said that so long as Qaddafi attacks his people the U.S. will consider a range of responses.

"It is time for him to go," Clinton told reporters after Monday's session of the U.N. Human Rights Council. "No option is off the table. That of course includes a no-fly zone."

As Clinton spoke, CBS News national security correspondent David Martin reports that the USS Kearsarge, an amphibious carrier carrying a force of helicopters and Marines, is preparing to make way for the Mediterranean Sea.

A senior military officer told CBS News that it is not clear what the mission would be for the Kearsarge, which is in the Red Sea, Martin reports. Libya sits on the Mediterranean coast.

While Clinton said the U.S. was leaving all of its options on the table, some options are clearly being viewed more favorably than others. A U.S. official told CBS News political analyst John Dickerson that supplying weapons to Libya's opposition forces is not under serious consideration at the moment out of fear that it would cause a "bloodbath."

In Switzerland, Clinton also said the U.S. is sending assistance teams to Libya's borders with Egypt and Algeria. The teams will help desperate refugees trying to flee a potential civil war. She said the U.S. has pledged $10 million to help refugees.

Meanwhile, British Prime Minister David Cameron said the U.K. is working with its allies on a plan to establish a military no-fly zone over Libya.

Cameron did not say whether that meant that the U.K. or its allies were moving to ban Libyan aircraft from flying immediately or simply making plans in case the situation there escalated. He told British lawmakers Monday that he did not "in any way" rule out the use of military force.

The European Union also was discussing the possibility of creating a no-fly zone over Libya.

The EU slapped its own arms embargo, visa ban and other sanctions on Qaddafi's regime Monday.

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 Qaddafi's regime.

Ashton said the European measures, including a freeze on assets, aim to reinforce U.N. Security Council sanctions against Libya approved over the weekend.

The EU action is significant because Europe has much more leverage over Libya than the United States — 85 percent of Libyan oil goes to Europe — and Qaddafi and his family are thought to have significant assets in Britain, Switzerland and Italy. Switzerland and Britain already have hit Libya with a freeze on assets.

Obama signs sanctions on Libya

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 also mulled a two-month cutoff of oil payments to Qaddafi's regime. This came after days of increasing concern about the hundreds, and potentially thousands, of deaths caused by Qaddafi'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.

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.

She said the possibility of creating a no-fly zone over Libya would involve a more complex set of negotiations.

Libya's oil chief says production is down 50 percent due to foreign oil workers fleeing the uprising, but the head of the National Oil Co. told The Associated Press on Monday that Libya's oil installations are protected and safe, disputing remarks by the EU energy commissioner who said Qaddafi has lost control of major fields.

The EU gets almost 5 percent of its fuel from Libya, which has the largest proven oil reserves in Africa, ahead of even Nigeria and Algeria. In 2009, the EU imported $27.5 billion in fuel from Libya — accounting for 85 percent of all the $32 billion in fuel that Libya exported that year, according to World Trade Organization figures.

Qaddafi'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 Qaddafi 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 to prevent Qaddafi and his family from receiving any fresh funds.

"This dictator family has to be financially dried up to stop them from hiring ever more mercenaries for a lot of money so they can attack the Libyan people," Westerwelle told reporters in Geneva. "We must do everything so this murder ends."

British Foreign Secretary William Hague told AP his government was "very sympathetic" to the German proposal as part of broader sanctions against Qaddafi's regime.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaking in Germany, repeated his opposition to sanctions or intervention against Libya, saying "the people should not be forced to pay for their leaders' wrongs."

Since the U.N. Security Council voted Saturday to impose new penalties against Libya, Clinton said the United States was "reaching out to many different Libyans who are attempting to organize," mostly in eastern Libya.

In response Monday, Libya's state-run news agency, JANA, quoted a foreign ministry official as saying that Clinton's comments are "a flagrant intervention in Libya's internal affairs and ... of the United Nations charter."

The unidentified official, according to JANA, said Clinton's statement "seriously harms relations between the two countries and threatens their joint interests and alliance against terrorism. These statements show that the American administration is involved in the conspiracy that is targeting the safety and unity of Libya."

Former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, meanwhile, said he has personally urged Qaddafi to step down and set up a transitional government to prevent further violence. Blair told The Times newspaper that he made two telephone calls to the embattled dictator last week, but the message that he should resign was rebuffed. He described the Libyan leader as being in denial about his situation.

Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd called on the world's powers to impose a no-fly zone over Libya and compared Qaddafi's violent suppression of opposition forces to genocides in Rwanda, the Bosnian town of Srebrenica and Sudan's Darfur region.

"For the sake of humanity, go now," Rudd advised Qaddafi in a speech to the Human Rights Council.

He told the AP a U.N.-mandated no-fly zone over Libya would prevent the type of aerial bombing unleashed on the Basque town of Guernica in 1937, killing hundreds in the Spanish Civil War. A no-fly zone would require the approval of the 15-member U.N. Security Council.

"Guernica is known throughout the world for the bombing of the civilian population. We have seen evidence of that in Libya. Let us not simply stand idly by while similar atrocities are committed again," Rudd told the AP.

Fillon said many more discussions were needed before the United Nations would support a no-fly zone over Libya and questioned whether NATO should get involved in a civil war in a North African country. The NATO chief has already rejected intervening in Libya.

British and German military planes swooped into Libya's desert over the weekend, rescuing hundreds of oil workers and civilians stranded at remote sites. The secret military missions signaled the readiness of Western nations to disregard Libya's territorial integrity when it comes to the safety of their citizens.

The U.N. Security Council has told the International Criminal Court to look into possible crimes against humanity occurring in Libya, only the second such referral. The first was in 2005 when the U.N. asked the world's first permanent war crimes tribunal to probe mass killings in Darfur.

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