EU nations eye Libya sanctions but Italy, Malta object
(BRUSSELS) - European nations are discussing sanctions against Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi but have run up against objections from some EU states, notably Italy and Malta, diplomats said Tuesday.
Several European Union countries, notably Germany and Finland, called for sanctions against Kadhafi at talks in Brussels on Monday between foreign ministers of the 27-nation bloc, they said.
One proposal on the table was a travel ban and assets freeze against the Libyan leader and his inner circle, said an EU diplomat who asked to remain anonymous.
"If Kadhafi keeps killing people the way he has it's a necessity to do something," he said. "Sanctions must be discussed in this situation, otherwise it would be contrary to European policies."
Another option would be to suspend negotiations between Libya and the EU that began in 2008 to agree a first-ever special two-way partnership.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle said in Berlin on Tuesday that "if Libya continues with violence against its own people, sanctions will become unavoidable".
But diplomats told AFP that Italy and Malta objected, with Cyprus too apparently cautioning against any such move.
Italy, already struggling to cope with an exodus of Tunisian refugees, as well as Malta, are concerned Kadhafi could allow tens of thousands of irregular African migrants currently in Libya to leave for Europe.
Libya, with its 2,000-kilometre shoreline and 4,000 kilometres of land borders with six African nations, plays host to hundreds of thousands of would-be migrants desperate for passage across the Mediterranean to Europe.
Several European nations also have major economic stakes in the North African nation, including French and Italian oil giants Total and ENI.
"Slapping sanctions on Kadhafi might simply reinforce his nationalist stand (and) give the impression that the democratic movement in his country is coordinated overseas," said a diplomat who asked not to be identified.
The priority is to evacuate European nationals, said another source.
On Tuesday several European nations, including France, Germany and the Netherlands, announced the dispatch of military plans to repatriate their citizens.
Belgian Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere said "the hour is not right for flexing muscles.
"If the situation deteriorates there will be time to draw the proper conclusions."