Image: Protesters with pre-1969 Libyan flag in London.
Sang Tan  /  AP
Protesters carrying a pre-1969 Libyan flag chant during a demonstration against Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi outside Downing Street in London on Tuesday.
msnbc.com staff and news service reports
updated 2/22/2011 7:28:50 PM ET 2011-02-23T00:28:50

The U.N. Security Council on Tuesday condemned the use of force against peaceful demonstrators in Libya and called for those responsible for such attacks to be held to account.

The call, clearly targeted principally at Libya's rulers, came in a statement agreed by the 15-nation council after a day of debate on the clashes in the North African country.

Expressing grave concern at the situation in Libya and the deaths of hundreds of civilians, the council called for an immediate end to violence and "steps to address the legitimate demands of the population, including through national dialogue."

It urged the Libyan authorities to act with restraint, respect human rights and grant immediate access to rights monitors and aid agencies. Libya's government should respect freedom of assembly, of expression and of the press, it added.

"The members of the Security Council stressed the importance of accountability. They underscored the need to hold to account those responsible for attacks, including by forces under their control, on civilians," the statement said.

The statement came hours after a defiant Muammar Gaddafi, Libya's leader, vowed to crush a growing revolt which has seen eastern regions break free of his 41-year rule and brought deadly unrest to the capital, Tripoli.

Story: Gadhafi vows to die as a martyr in Libya

Across the globe, leaders condemned reports that Gadhafi used tanks, warplanes and mercenaries to try to crush protests against his 41-year rule.

Earlier, the Obama administration called the violence in Libya "appalling."

"This violence is completely unacceptable," Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said. "We believe that the government of Libya bears responsibility for what is occurring and must take actions to end the violence."

Video: 'We will not live under this regime' (on this page)

German Chancellor Angela Merkel described a speech by Gadhafi on which he vowed to fight to his death "very, very frightening" and said he had declared war on his own people.

Merkel told a news conference that if Gadhafi did not stop the violence she would support sanctions against Libya.

Italian Premier Silvio Berlusconi spoke Tuesday afternoon with Gadhafi by telephone and asked him to put a stop to the violence against anti-government protesters, Italy's Defense Minister Ignazio La Russa said.

"Gadhafi responded that the violence was mostly against Libyan military personnel," La Russa told reporters after an emergency cabinet meeting to discuss the Libyan turmoil and its impact on illegal migration to Italy, according to the LaPress news agency Meanwhile, the United States and Britain moved to get their nationals out of Libya.

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In Cairo, the Arab League said it had suspended the Libyan delegation's participation in the regional body, Al Arabiya television said on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, the U.S., Britain and other countries moved to get their nationals out of Libya.

The U.S. said it had been unable to move any nonessential U.S. diplomats and embassy family members immediately out of Libya but expected them to depart in coming days.

U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said the United States had "approximately 35 employees and their families affected" by a U.S. decision Monday to order nonessential diplomats and embassy family members to leave.

Story: What you need to know about the unrest in the Mideast

Crowley told reporters that the United States was looking at a variety of ways to move U.S. citizens out of the country and did not explain in detail why it had not been able to do so Tuesday.

Britain said on Tuesday it planned to send a charter plane to Libya to bring out British nationals and was dispatching a Royal Navy frigate to waters off Libya in case it was needed to help Britons.

Video: Engel: Eastern Libya no longer under Gadhafi control (on this page)

"We are working closely with airlines to assist as many British nationals as possible to depart Libya ... We are making arrangements for a charter plane to travel to Libya in the next 48 hours," Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters.

British frigate redeployed
He said the frigate Cumberland was being redeployed from the eastern Mediterranean to international waters near Libya, in case it was needed to help British nationals.

The chaos engulfing the country prompted many foreigners to flee.

Italy's government on Tuesday dispatched an air force jet to Benghazi, Libya's second-largest city, to evacuate around 100 Italian citizens.

Many countries had already urged their nationals to avoid nonessential travel to Libya, or recommended that those already there leave on commercial flights.

Two civilian ferries from Turkey arrived in the hard-hit eastern city of Benghazi late Tuesday to evacuate about 3,000 Turkish citizens, the Anatolia news agency reported. The ferries were expected to set sail back for Turkey as soon as the evacuees had boarded. Turkey sent the ferries and another military vessel after the country was unable to get permission to land at the city's airport.

Turkey's Deputy Prime Minister Cemil Cicek said Turkish ferries could help evacuate up to 6,000 people per day, if Libyan authorities allow the vessels to dock at Benghazi.

Meanwhile, about 5,000 Egyptians have returned home from Libya by land and about 10,000 more are waiting to cross the Libya-Egypt border, an Egyptian security official said. Egypt says it will also send six commercial and two military planes to repatriate thousands more caught in the revolt against Moammar Gadhafi's regime.

Some people were still getting out on regularly scheduled flights, but many countries were sending planes to fetch their citizens, with Serbia, Russia, the Netherlands and France reporting they had permission to land in Tripoli, a process made more difficult by the uncertainty about who is in charge.

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Several Western diplomats said at a minimum they want a council statement condemning the violence against Libyan civilians, demanding an immediate end to the crackdown, and calling on all parties to act with restraint, and respect human rights and international law. They also want the council to demand full protection for foreign nationals and access for humanitarian assistance and human rights monitors, the diplomats said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the consultations were private.

U.S. Senator John Kerry, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said the council should condemn the violence and explore temporary sanctions including an arms embargo, a call echoed by Amnesty International. Kerry said the U.N. should also immediately remove Libya from the Human Rights Commission, appoint a special investigator on human rights conditions in Libya, and authorize the distribution of emergency humanitarian supplies.

Waning support
In signs of waning international support for the Libyan strongman, the Libyan ambassador to the United States has also urged Gadhafi to step down, the ambassador to India resigned as did the ambassador to Bangladesh who protested the killing of family members by government troops.

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Protesters gathered at some Libyan embassies around the world, including those in Sweden and Serbia. In Stockholm, they were allowed into the embassy, where they raised the flag of the monarchy that was toppled by Moammar Gadhafi's military coup in 1969.

Almost all Libyan diplomats at the United Nations backed Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi's pleas to Gadhafi to end his 40-year rule and to the international community to intervene.

Gadhafi's security forces unleashed the most deadly crackdown of any Arab country against the wave of protests sweeping the region, with reports Monday that demonstrators were being fired at from helicopters and warplanes. After seven days of protests and deadly clashes in Libya's eastern cities, the eruption of turmoil in the capital, Tripoli, sharply escalated the challenge to Gadhafi.

Reuters and the Associated Press contributed to this report.

Video: Libyan protesters fly pre-Gadhafi flags

  1. Closed captioning of: Libyan protesters fly pre-Gadhafi flags

    >> big nation and big prize in this wave of uprising in the nation. it's the bloodiest we've seen so far sweeping through the arab world . we just heard richard report, this is more than a protest movement or rebellion, it's a civil war , they say, and the streets are a war zone . nbc's stephanie gosk is just east of the border with libya in the egyptian village of saloum tonight.

    >> reporter: good evening, violent. protesters say they are closing in on their goal of regime change. but if moammar gadhafi is concerned about that, he certainly isn't showing it, at least not publicly. at night, tripoli's streets burn and gun battles rage. what began as a movement for more democracy has turned into a bloody civil war .

    >> we just hear shooting. we hear helicopter in the air. we have been in our house for over three, four, almost four days. if you go outside, you're going to get shot at.

    >> reporter: reports from eyewitnesss describe bodies littering the streets, people too afraid to leave their homes and collect the dead. with few journalists in the country the numbers are difficult to verify. hundreds have been killed. gunned down by libya 's military, and gang of well-armed mercenaries. leading the violent charge, a defiant moammar gadhafi , who today addressed his nation on state tv and refused to step down.

    >> i am a fighter, a revolutionary. i will die as a martyr at the end.

    >> reporter: the hour long spich was delivered from gadhafi 's former residence, damaged by u.s. air strikes in 1986 , preserved as a shrine ever since. rambling and bombastic, he described the protesters as vermin, manipulated to outside forces.

    >> vintage gadhafi , totally removed from reality. he's completely unpredictable.

    >> reporter: people are fleeing libya . this group of men told us they were held captive for days by mercenaries. others said they were attacked by fighter jets . most of these guys are egyptian workers fleeing the violence. we've yet to meet a single libyan. on a normal day, 500 people will cross through this crossing, today, 10,000. there are fears egypt could soon see a flood of libyan refugees. the egyptian military already has its hands full running a country with no president. and now has to stand guard at an uncertain border. there are further signs that gadhafi 's support may be eroding, the interior minister resigned today. there are a number of ambassadors that have resigned, they're flying the pregadhafi flag that is a symbol of this new revolution.

    >> stephanie gosk, thank you as

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