WASHINGTON – The Obama administration threw its weight Thursday behind a European effort to expel Libya from the U.N.’s top human rights body and said it was readying a larger sanctions package against Moammar Gadhafi’s regime that it will take up with allies in the coming days.
President Barack Obama consulted with the leaders of Britain, France and Italy, while officials said Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton would help coordinate the larger international strategy to stop the violence in Libya at a meeting of foreign policy chiefs next week in Switzerland.
As an initial punishment for Libya’s violent attacks on protesters, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the U.S. is backing a European proposal for the U.N. Human Rights Council to recommend Libya’s expulsion.
Officials also said the U.S. would support efforts to establish a U.N.-led probe into “gross and systematic violations of human rights by the Libyan authorities.”
While those measures might seem tame, they were expected to be followed soon by tougher measures aimed at pressuring the unpredictable Gadhafi to end the violence that has wracked much of his country.
The U.S. was being forced to temper its tone because hundreds of Americans remained stuck in the country – and many were relying on the goodwill and cooperation of Gadhafi’s regime for their safety and planned evacuation.
Crowley said 167 Americans – 40 nonessential personnel and their family members, and 127 private U.S. citizens – are waiting to be evacuated by ferry from Libya. The ferry remained docked in the capital of Tripoli because of high seas. There are also 118 foreigners on board and the boat isn’t expected to leave until today.