UN chief Ban Ki-moon and Libya's UN envoys who have denounced Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi urged the Security Council on Friday to act quickly to help stop the bloodshed in the North African state.
"It is time for the Security Council to consider concrete action," Ban told the 15-nation council, which gathered to receive a draft sanctions resolution against Libyan leaders. "The hours and the days ahead will be decisive for Libyans."
Diplomats said that a sanctions vote could come on Saturday.
Earlier, Libyan Deputy UN Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi said the situation in Libya would get worse and more corpses would be piling up.
"We expect thousands to be killed today in Tripoli, so I call on all the international community to intervene now and to send a clear message to Colonel Gaddafi that he should stop the killing now," he said.
By some estimates, thousands of Libyans have been killed in recent days in clashes between forces loyal to longtime leader Gaddafi and anti-government protesters.
Libya's UN ambassador, Abdurrahman Shalgham, a former Libyan foreign minister who did not associate himself with a statement denouncing Gaddafi earlier this week, joined Dabbashi in condemning him in an impassioned speech to the
"I tell my brother Gaddafi -- leave the Libyans alone," he said. He then told the Security Council not to hesitate imposing sanctions on Gaddafi and his circle: "We want a decisive, a rapid and a courageous resolution from you."
Earlier, Dabbashi said that Libya might soon halt oil exports. "The export of oil may be stopped soon for security reasons but anyway I think it is under good control of the people and it will not be harmed," he told reporters.
'This is a madman'
Dabbashi said that Gaddafi, who has controlled the country for 41 years, would not allow himself to be taken alive.
"This is a madman and he is psychologically not stable," Dabbashi said. "He will stay until the moment he is either (killed) or he will commit suicide."
The council met behind closed doors to consider a draft sanctions resolution, prepared by France and Britain in consultation with Germany and the United States that called for referring the violence in Libya to the International Criminal Court in The Hague for investigation and possible prosecution.
The six-page draft calls for an end to the violence and says "the widespread and systematic attacks currently taking place in Libya against the civilian population may amount to crimes against humanity."
The 15-nation council has referred only one other case to the ICC -- the conflict in Sudan's western Darfur region.
The draft also calls for an arms embargo against Libya as well as travel bans and asset freezes for top Libyan leaders.
A vote on the draft resolution, which will be amended during closed-door negotiations, could come over the weekend, council diplomats said. The council will meet again on Libya on Saturday at 11 am (1600 GMT).
Brazil's UN envoy and council president this month, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, said council members shared a "sense of urgency" about the need to act to halt the bloodshed.
"There is a possibility that we might come to a conclusion by tomorrow," she said.
French Ambassador Gerard Araud said that all council members, including Russia and China, supported most aspects of the text, although there would likely be questions about the ICC referral.
The timing of the vote will depend on how aggressively Russia and China -- permanent veto-wielding council members that usually oppose sanctions -- fight to dilute the proposed measures, the diplomats said on condition of anonymity.
Earlier this week, Dabbashi called on the United Nations to impose a no-fly zone over Libya to protect rebel enclaves from forces loyal to Gaddafi. That proposal is not in the draft.