US, EU both threaten Libya with sanctions

The United States and the European Union vowed Wednesday to consider sanctions against Libya for Moammar Gadhafi’s fierce crackdown on protesters, with the EU calling the attacks possible “crimes against humanity.”

“The continuing brutal and bloody repression against the Libyan civilian population is revolting,” French President Nicolas Sarkozy said in a statement Wednesday, raising the possibility of cutting off all economic and business ties between the EU and Libya. “The international community cannot remain a spectator to these massive violations of human rights.”

In Washington, White House spokesman Jay Carney also condemned the attacks.

“The violence is abhorrent, it is completely unacceptable and the bloodshed must stop,” Carney said.

The European Union has faced criticism for an initially cautious, measured response to the bloodshed in Libya and in other Arab countries swept up in a wave of popular protests against authoritarian regimes. The bloc’s 27 members have disagreed on how hard-hitting a tone to take against Libya, their neighbor across the Mediterranean and a major supplier of their oil.

But by Wednesday, momentum seemed to be building toward a tougher response to Gadhafi, who has vowed to fight to his “last drop of blood.”

“A political leader who has decided to bomb his own citizens has lost all legitimacy to continue leading his country,” Spanish Foreign Minister Trinidad Jimenez said.

After a meeting of EU ambassadors, the bloc did not announce sanctions, but EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the EU stood “ready to take further measures” beyond suspending talks on a bilateral deal.