Frank Franklin II, Associated Press
UNITED NATIONS — U.N. Security Council members were mulling ways to punish Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, his family and his cohorts after the country's ambassador to the U.N. beseeched them to help halt the deadly attacks that his once-close comrade has unleashed on anti-government protesters.
"I hope that within hours, not days, they can do something tangible, effective to stop what they are doing there — Gadhafi and his sons — against our people," Ambassador Mohamed Shalgham said after addressing the council Friday.
Under pressure from Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to take concrete action to protect civilians, the council agreed to meet urgently again Saturday. Up for consideration are an arms embargo against the government and a travel ban and asset freeze against Gadhafi, his relatives and key members of his government.
The draft sanctions resolution circulated by France, Britain, Germany and the United States also would refer the violent crackdown in Libya to the International Criminal Court so it can investigate possible crimes against humanity.
Ban said some estimates indicate more than 1,000 people have been killed in less than two weeks since the protests broke out in the North African country, and that many people cannot leave their homes for fear of being shot. "In these circumstances, the loss of time means more loss of lives," the U.N. chief said.
Council members were visibly moved by the speech by Shalgham, who only on Tuesday had praised Gadhafi as "my friend" and refused to join other diplomats at Libya's U.N. mission in demanding that the strongman step down.
"They are asking for their freedom. They are asking for their rights," Shalgham told the council "They did not throw a single stone and they were killed. I tell my brother Gadhafi: 'Leave the Libyans alone.' "
After his speech, the ambassador was embraced by his tearful deputy, Ibrahim Dabbashi, who had led the mutiny against Gadhafi at the U.N. headquarters. As Dabbashi wept, he was also embraced by many ambassadors and the secretary-general.
A nonviolent revolt against Gadhafi's four-decade-old rule began Feb. 15 amid a wave of uprisings across the region and has swept over most of the country's eastern half. Witnesses say Gadhafi's government has responded by shooting on protesters in numerous cities. Loyalist militias on Friday opened fire on thousands of demonstrators in the Libyan capital of Tripoli.
For the second time this week, the Security Council called for "an immediate end to the violence," expressing grave concern at the deteriorating situation, particularly "reports of civilian casualties on a very large scale."
France's U.N. Ambassador Gerard Araud told reporters after Friday's council session that there is broad agreement among the council's 15 members on an asset freeze and travel ban, which will specifically name about 20 people, and on an arms embargo.
He said referring Libya to the ICC, the war crimes tribunal, "is a sensitive topic" because some council members are not parties to the treaty that established it including the U.S., China, Russia, Lebanon, India and Gabon.
But Araud said referring Libya to the war crimes tribunal is necessary because "horrendous crimes are (being) committed in Libya."
Araud said the proposed sanctions do not include a no-fly zone over Libya — as some Gadhafi opponents have called for — because "you need planes and bases and it's a war operation." He also said any U.N.-sanctioned military action "is not an option at this stage."
In Washington, the White House announced sweeping new sanctions and temporarily abandoned its embassy in Tripoli as a final flight carrying American citizens left the embattled capital.
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