European Union heads of state and government are united in their demands for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi to go immediately. However they're divided on how to proceed in order to achieve their goal.
The EU needs to find a common line on Libya
European Union leaders in Brussels displayed a rare show of unity Friday at the end of their emergency summit on Libya, calling unanimously on its leader Moammar Gadhafi to step down immediately. "The Libyan leadership must give up power without delay," EU President Herman Van Rompuy said. "All say it loud and clear."
On the controversial issue of a no-fly zone over Libya, EU leaders said they were keeping military options open, however they stressed that any such action would need the approval of the United Nations, the Arab League and other regional players.
"In order to protect the civilian population, member states will examine all necessary options, provided that there is a demonstrable need, a clear legal basis and support from the region," a joint statement read.
To that end, the EU called for an emergency summit with the Arab League and the African Union. The EU's foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton is due to meet the Arab League's secretary general on Monday.
Germany is wary of using military options against Libya
German Chancellor Angela Merkel told reporters that she was "fundamentally skeptical" about the idea of military intervention.
Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere had earlier criticized France and Britain's calls for limited air strikes against Libya.
"I think nothing at all of publicly playing with options and thinking that will impress anyone - least of all Mr. Gadhafi," de Maiziere said.
The African Union on Friday rejected military intervention to stop the hostilities in Libya.
"The [Peace and Security] council reaffirms its firm commitment to the respect of the unity and territorial integrity of Libya, as well as its rejection of any form of foreign military intervention," Ramtane Lamamra, the AU commissioner for peace and security, said.
Stopping short of President Nicolas Sarkozy's much-publicized move to recognize the Libyan National Council, a group of rebel leaders based in the east, as the country's opposition, EU leaders acknowledged the council as a "legitimate interlocutor."
Germany's foreign ministry said a high-ranking German diplomat had been touch by phone with a Libyan opposition spokesman, telling the rebel leader that "a new Libyan government must come from elections, and be representative as well as inclusive."
NATO and the US have begun moving warships to monitor Libya but held off on military strikes
NATO's defense ministers continued their two-day Libya conference on Friday, having so far decided to send warships to the central Mediterranean to monitor the situation more closely. The United States has also moved warships closer to the Libyan coast to increase monitoring.
The military alliance also said a clear UN approval and agreement from regional partners would be required before it could implement a no-fly zone.
UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said he would send his special envoy, former Jordanian Foreign Minister Abdelilah Al-Khatib, to Libya to try to end the violence and ensure humanitarian assistance reaches those who need it. Ban added that Al-Khatib would arrive early next week along with a UN delegation, and that he expected the envoy to be engaged in political issues as well.
Fight for oil city rages
On the ground, Gadhafi's troops continued their counter-offensive against rebels in the eastern oil port of Ras Lanuf, driving them out with tanks and heavy rocket fire. Fighting was also reported from the western town of Zawiyah, which has changed hands between regime forces and rebels several times in recent days.
Libyan rebels are prepared for heavy fighting with Gadhafi's forces
Gadhafi's son Saif al-Islam took aim at the rebels, calling them "armed militias" and accusing them of collaborating with terrorists.
"From the first day they assaulted, they were not demonstrators," he told reporters in Tripoli. "They assaulted state security and took control of arms depots."
More than 10,000 Libyans poured onto the streets of rebel-held Benghazi on Friday, demanding that Gadhafi quit and praying for victory. The worshippers called for more foreign backing to help end his 41 years in power.
"Help us to become a democratic country," said one banner strung between lamp posts and written in English and Arabic.
Authors: Andrew Bowen, Rob Mudge (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)
Editor: Rob Turner