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US warns of civil war in Libya

The US has warned that Libya was in danger of collapsing into civil war if international efforts to force Gadhafi out fail. The Libyan leader remained defiant sending forces to try and reassert control of Western areas.

Moammar Gadhafi

The US has warned of civil war in Libya

In testimony to a US Congressional panel Tuesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Libya was at a crossroads. She offered two stark alternatives for the country. "In the years ahead, Libya could become a peaceful democracy or it could face protracted civil war."

She added that the US must lead an international reponse to the crisis and repeated that the US was taking "no options off the table" to prevent Gadhafi from continuing the violence against his people.

Earlier the US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said Washington would keep up the political and economic pressure until Gadhafi stepped down. She also had harsh words for Gadhafi's interviews Monday with international media outlets, in which he insisted his people loved him and would die to protect him.

Rice described him as "frankly delusional," adding that he was "disconnected from reality," "slaughtering his own people" and unfit to lead.

Special envoy

Rice also said that the US was in talks with its NATO partners and other allies about military options. She said the US had moved naval and air forces in position around Libya. However the top US commander in the Middle East, General James Mattis, said the military would have to take out Libyan air defense positions in order to establish a no-fly zone.

Germany's Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle on Tuesday called for the appointment of a special UN envoy for Libya. "We need a special envoy to allow the international community to mark its presence and to evaluate and coordinate humanitarian efforts," he said. The European Union also agreed to hold a special crisis summit on Libya and North Africa on March 11.

Westerwelle

Germany wants a special UN envoy for Libya

Meanwhile, the United Nations Refugee Agency warned of a looming crisis at the border between Libya and Tunisia as more and more people tried to escape the violence in Libya. A spokeswoman for the UNHCR said 14,000 people had fled across the border on Monday, a further 15,000 were expected Tuesday. Humanitarian aid agencies were having problems gaining access to meet the refugees' needs, she said, adding that authorities and agencies were "seriously overstretched."

Author: Rob Mudge (Reuters, AFP, AP)
Editor: Susan Houlton

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