Harper pledges sanctions against Libyan regime
Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada will enact strict new sanctions on the regime of embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, as nations around the globe reacted to rising violence in the North African nation.
Harper's comments Friday evening followed similarly strong words from White House officials, the United Nations and other countries around the world.
Harper said that no options were off the table when dealing with the Libyan regime of Gadhafi and his family.
"I've instructed our officials to prepare a full range of sanctions against the Libyan regime, both in collaboration with our international partners or unilaterally if necessary," said Harper. "No options have been ruled out."
The prime minister also suggested that any attacks on civilians within Libya could be cause for legal action at the International Court of Justice in The Hague.
"Those responsible for ordering and carrying out atrocities against the Libyan people must be held accountable," said Harper.
The prime minister added that Canada will support a push from the UN Security Council to enact an embargo on arms and to freeze the assets of the Gadhafi regime.
The White House also announced that new, unilateral sanctions would be imposed on Gadhafi and his family. U.S. Treasury officials have also been asked to take extra precautions with "private banking accounts held by or on behalf of senior foreign political figures."
On Friday night, the Obama administration closed down its embassy in Libya and froze the U.S. assets of the Libyan government, Gadhafi and four of his children.
Obama said the sanctions were justified by Libya's "continued violation of human rights, brutalization of its people and outrageous threats."
The precautions come amid concern that the North African nation's enormous resource wealth could be plundered. A recent diplomatic cable unearthed by Wikileaks revealed that a national investment wealth fund was worth $32 billion.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon is also asking that the Security Council take "concrete action" so that civilians in Libya are protected. He warned that any delay could result in more deaths.
He added that "the violence must stop" and he added that those behind the violence must be held to account.
The secretary-general will meet with U.S. President Barack Obama in Washington on Monday to discuss further action against Libya.
Meanwhile, as his detractors returned to the streets of Tripoli and were met with gunfire, Gadhafi urged a sympathetic crowd of his supporters to retaliate in Libya's defence.
Gadhafi spoke from the ramparts of the Red Castle overlooking Tripoli's Green Square on Friday evening. Addressing the crowd of approximately 1,000 people, many of whom were waving flags bearing his image, Gadhafi urged them to, "dance, sing and prepare. Prepare to defend Libya, to defend the oil, dignity and independence."
Clad in sunglasses and a fur hat, Gadhafi told the crowd to "retaliate against them, retaliate against them."
Pumping his fist in the air, he said, "At the suitable time we will open the arms depot so all Libyans and tribes become armed, so that Libya becomes red with fire."
His address came just hours after forces loyal to his regime opened fire on protesters who took to the streets in the capital following Friday prayers.
"There are all kind of bullets," one witness told The Associated Press in a phone call from the capital's Souq al-Jomaa district where marchers were trying to make their way to the central Green Square.
There are unconfirmed reports three protesters were killed in the gunfire there, and another died in a separate rally in the district of Fashloum. Gunfire was also reported in the capital's impoverished eastern district of Tajoura as well as near the Green Square itself.
"The situation is chaotic in parts of Tripoli now," another witness told the AP, explaining that shots were being fired into the air in an attempt to disperse the protesters.
Friday of Liberation
Security was tightened in Tripoli earlier Friday, the day after deadly clashes between anti-Gadhafi protesters and forces loyal to his regime claimed at least 30 lives in the cities of Zawiya and Misrata just outside the capital.
Residents there say they'd received text messages urging mass demonstrations following prayers on Friday, however, and expected protesters to take to the streets despite the threat of a crackdown.
In an attempt to stave off the planned "Friday of Liberation" rallies, security cordons were erected around mosques and other potential gathering sites in the capital. The Associated Press also reports that former Libyan Muslim Brotherhood member Mukhtar al-Mahmoudi was among several activists pre-emptively detained by government forces overnight.
Tens of thousands still turned out for rallies in the main square of Libya's second-largest city Benghazi on Friday, as well as smaller gatherings in other cities throughout the country's east, as well as in the opposition-controlled northwestern city of Misrata.
While Gadhafi has managed to maintain power in Tripoli, where approximately one-third of Libya's population of 6 million live, protesters have already wrested control of much of the eastern half of Libya, including a swath from the Egyptian border across the Mediterranean coast to the key oil port of Breqa, 710 kilometres east of Tripoli.
So far, Zawiya, just 50 kilometres west of Tripoli, is the population centre closest to the capital that's fallen to rebels. That leaves Gadhafi's embattled regime in control of the capital and some surrounding communities, the desert south and the areas of the sparsely populated centre.
Gadhafi regime digs in
But even as the protesters continue to seize more power from Gadhafi's four-decade grip on the North African nation, his son Seif al-Islam vowed their family will "live and die in Libya."
According to an excerpt from an interview aired Friday, Gadhafi told CNNTurk he sees only one way forward.
"Plan A is to live and die in Libya, Plan B is to live and die in Libya, Plan C is to live and die in Libya," he said in remarks obtained by The Associated Press.
In recent days, a string of Libyan ambassadors and diplomats around the world have abandoned the regime, as have the justice and interior ministers at home, and one of Gadhafi's cousins and closest aides, Ahmed Gadhaf al-Dam, who sought refuge in Egypt.
According to a partial count, the New York-based Human Rights Watch estimates 300 people have died in Libya since protesters first took to the streets on Feb. 15. Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frattini said estimates of some 1,000 people killed were "credible."