WASHINGTON — As Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi gave a defiant, rambling speech pledging "I will be a martyr at the end," world nations struggled Tuesday for a response to his regime's widespread massacre of civilian protesters.
The U.N. Security Council, which held an emergency morning session, was due to meet later in the day. That meeting could produce a statement condemning the violence in Libya, which has claimed hundreds of lives.
But pressure on President Barack Obama and other world leaders for a more forceful response was growing, in the face of reports that Libyan security forces and mercenaries were firing on civilians and killing army officers who refused orders to do likewise.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry, D-Mass., urged the Obama administration to re-impose sanctions against Libya that were lifted during the Bush administration. Kerry also called on all U.S. and international oil companies to "immediately" stop operations in Libya.
"While it's true that America has less influence in Tripoli than elsewhere in the region, we're not without options, particularly in partnership with the broader international community," Kerry said in a statement. Kerry said action by the United Nations is "critical." He urged the U.N. Security Council to act aggressively, including imposing sanctions, an arms embargo and distributing emergency humanitarian supplies.
Libya’s deputy representative to the United Nations, who broke with Gadhafi on Monday, has urged the world body to impose a no-fly zone that would prevent government jets and helicopters from firing on protesters. But there was no sign such a step was imminent.
In his speech, broadcast live on Libyan state TV, Gadhafi spoke of his opponents as “rats” and foreign intelligence agents, and attempted to blame America for the unrest that has seen much of eastern Libya fall to anti-regime forces.
“We defy America,” he said at one point.
Gadhafi appeared to be speaking in front of a building that was damaged in an April 1986 U.S. airstrike, and never repaired.
New York-based Human Rights Watch said 62 people had been killed in Tripoli, the capital, since Sunday.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said Obama condemned the “appalling” violence in Libya.
The United States will “look forward to working with the international community so that the international community speaks with one voice in condemning the violence. And we feel like when the international community speaks with one voice, it can be most effective, so we are obviously participating fully in that.”
Elsewhere, Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said the 27-nation EU was suspending a framework trade agreement it had been negotiating with Libya, Reuters reported.
The price of crude oil shot up Tuesday, with a barrel of oil for April delivery rising by more than $5 in midday trading on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Libya on Tuesday declared force majeure on oil exports, freeing it from lawsuits alleging it broke contracts for oil delivery.
“He’s probably on the last leg and wants to pretend that he’s still in charge. This reminds me of (Egyptian President Hosni) Mubarak” giving orders up to the moment of his departure, said Fadel Gheit, managing director and senior oil analyst for investment adviser Oppenheimer & Co. in New York. “This is getting very bloody and there is no return. One way or the other there is going to be bloodshed.”
McClatchy's Kevin G. Hall contributed to this report.
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