The United States on Sunday issued its strongest condemnation yet of Libya's violent crackdown on protesters, citing what it called credible reports of hundreds of deaths and injuries and threatening to take "all appropriate actions" in response.
The State Department said it had raised strong objections with Libyan ruler Muammar Gaddafi's government about the "use of lethal force against peaceful demonstrators" as the country has gotten caught up in a wave of unrest shaking the Middle East and North Africa.
With Washington stepping up pressure on Tripoli, one of Gaddafi's sons, Saif al-Islam, said on state television that his father would fight against the popular uprising to "the last man standing." But he also promised a dialogue on reforms and wage increases.
"We are analyzing the speech of Saif al-Islam Gaddafi to see what possibilities it contains for meaningful reform," a U.S. official said in Washington.
U.S. President Barack Obama's administration also signaled that the Libyan government might face consequences if it did not take heed of warnings to rein in its security forces and respect its citizens' right to protest.
"We are considering all appropriate actions," the U.S. official said, without specifying what kinds of measures might be at Washington's disposal.
While denouncing the Libyan crackdown on demonstrators demanding an end to Gaddafi's four-decade rule, U.S. officials have stopped short of calling for a change of government in Tripoli.
The United States would appear to have far less leverage with Gaddafi than it has exercised in recent week with close U.S. allies like Egypt and Bahrain, where autocratic leaders gave ground in the face of U.S. criticism over political rights.
Washington's few options in response to Gaddafi's protest crackdown might include reimposing some sanctions, possibly even touching on Libya's oil industry. But such moves would take time, would require a unified Western stand and could also hurt U.S. oil companies' interests.
Obama was being briefed regularly, and his administration was seeking "clarification" from senior Libyan officials about the actions of their security forces, the U.S. official said.
Gaddafi's son said earlier that the army stood behind his father as a "leader of the battle in Tripoli" and would enforce security at any price.
But Saif al-Islam also said the General People's Congress, Libya's equivalent of a parliament, would convene on Monday to discuss a "clear" reform agenda.
"The United States is gravely concerned with disturbing reports and images coming out of Libya," State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said.
The State Department said U.S. Embassy dependents were being encouraged to leave Libya and U.S. citizens were urged to defer nonessential travel to the country.
Libya is a major energy producer with significant investment from Britain's BP, Exxon Mobil of the United States and Italy's ENI among others.
Güncelleme Tarihi: 21 Şubat 2011, 11:00