Saying that Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi has no legitimacy with his
people, the White House on Friday said that President Obama is
finalizing unilateral sanctions against Libya.
White House press secretary Jay Carney would not specify what the sanctions would include or when they might be implemented, but he warned that they are only a "first step" if more action is required. Carney said the sanctions would be announced with more specificity in the "near future."
After days of violent upheaval in the country and relative silence from Obama, Carney said that Obama has been largely behind closed doors because he wanted to ensure that American citizens were evacuated safely and he wanted "to get the policy right."
While Obama condemned the violence in Libya in remarks on Wednesday, the president did not mention Gadhafi by name.
But on Friday, Carney blasted the Libyan dictator, saying it is "clear that Col. Gadhafi has lost the confidence of his people."
"He is overseeing the brutal treatment of his own people," Carney said, adding that Gadhafi's "legitimacy has been reduced to zero in the eyes of his own people."
The White House is still pursuing multilateral actions and is seeking to coordinate its unilateral sanctions with European countries considering similar avenues.
The U.S. Embassy in Tripoli was "shuttered" Friday afternoon by the State Department, Carney said, and employees have been evacuated or are on their way out of the country.
A ferry containing about 200 U.S citizens and embassy staff left Libya
this morning, and a chartered plane departed the country for Turkey with
remaining staff who requested evacuation, Carney said.
Carney was not aware if members of Congress had been consulted or whether the sanctions would require any congressional approval.
Obama has spoken in recent days with European leaders, and he has "explained the unilateral measures that the United States is implementing and noted his desire to coordinate on measures that our allies are considering."
Obama "will continue these consultations to build international consensus for strong measures in the days to come," Carney said.
On Monday, Obama will meet in Washington with United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to "discuss the diplomatic, legal and other actions needed to put a stop to violence against civilians in Libya."
The president will also talk to the secretary-general about "the range of activities that U.N. agencies and the international community can undertake to address the significant humanitarian needs created by this crisis."
Carney also announced that on Friday the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network informed American financial institutions "to take reasonable risk-based steps with respect to the potential increased movement of assets that may be related to the situation in Libya."
Carney said that Obama has also "suspended the very limited military cooperation it had with Libya."
"The U.S. military began to cautiously reengage with Libya, as you know, in 2009 following Libya's decision to halt its weapons of mass destruction programs and compensate victims of terrorism," Carney said. "Prior to the recent unrest, sales of spare military parts were pending. They have been frozen."
Carney repeatedly emphasized that the sanctions are not designed to force a regime change in Libya, saying that the people of that country will decide their leadership.
"The intent of the sanctions is to make it clear the regime has to stop the abuses, has to stop the bloodshed," Carney said.
This story was updated at 3:35 p.m.