Military Option Open EU Demands Gadhafi Step Down

At a special meeting on Libya in Brussels on Friday, EU leaders demanded that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi step down. They kept open the possibility of military action against the dictator's regime, but insisted such a move would require the support of the Arab League and United Nations.

Belgium Prime Minister Yves Leterme arrived at an European Union leaders' summit on Libya and North Africa, in Brussels Friday.

Belgium Prime Minister Yves Leterme arrived at an European Union leaders' summit on Libya and North Africa, in Brussels Friday.

European Union leaders on Friday demanded that Moammar Gadhafi step down and kept all options, including military intervention, open in dealing with the Libyan leader.

Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme said at a press conference following a special EU meeting on Libya that military action would need the support of the Arab League and the UN Security Council. Officials also called for a special summit on the issue with the Arab League and the African Union. No concrete dates for such a meeting were established, but the president of the European Commission, Jose Manuel Barroso, said the meeting should take place "very soon."

The 27 European leaders held a special meeting Friday to discuss the conflict in Libya. It was a rare move for the European Union to demand that a head of state step down, and the issue was heavily debated in Brussels. Italy, in particular, sees Libya as an important trading partner and had defended the Libyan regime for a long time.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel made her own appeal before the meeting for the Libyan leader to step down. "It should be made very clear that someone who wages a war against his own people cannot be a dialogue partner for the EU," she said in Brussels.

'Crazy Move'

EU delegates threw political support behind the Libyan opposition Friday, but did not give them diplomatic recognition, a controversial move made the day before by French President Nicolas Sarkozy. Sarkozy told a press conference in Brussels that EU leaders had agreed to back the creation of humanitarian aid zones, including in Libya.

Other EU nations, among them Germany, argued that only states should get diplomatic recognition. The Associated Press reported that Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte said: "I find it a crazy move by France. To jump ahead and say 'I will recognize a transitional government,' in the face of any diplomatic practice, is not the solution for Libya.'"

German government officials took the position Friday that they wanted to see what the Arab League decides to do before they officially recognize the rebels trying to overthrow Libya's leader.

Germany's new defense minister, Thomas de Maizière, said in Brussels that "the situation right now in Libya does not justify a military intervention by NATO."

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle also urged caution Friday in relation to the discussion about a possible no-fly zone over Libya. "If it doesn't work, do we go further, with land forces?" he said, according to Reuters.

mbw -- with wires


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