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EU agrees on Libya arms embargo, assets freeze

world Updated: Feb 25, 2011 22:57 IST

European Union nations on Friday agreed to slap an arms embargo, assets freezes and travel bans on Libya in a package of sanctions designed to ramp up pressure on Moamer Gaddafi's regime, diplomats said.

The sanctions against Gaddafi, which also include an embargo on providing Tripoli with law enforcement equipment used to crack down on protesters, will come into force in several days after being legally drafted.

A government source in Berlin said a formal decision was expected early next week, a quick turnaround for the 27-nation bloc which can take weeks to reach such decisions.

EU sources refused to say who or how many Libyans were targeted "to avoid a run on assets", as one diplomat put it.

In Washington, the Treasury Department warned banks to be vigilant of transfers linked to Libya's political leaders as the international community moves to slap sanctions on top government officials.

Outraged by the bloody crackdown on protesters and Gaddafi's calls for a "house-to-house" purge, calls for action mounted across Europe this week.

Some countries remained reticent, fearing reprisals against the thousands of Europeans trapped in the country.

But even Italy, concerned that Gaddafi might open the floodgates to a "biblical" exodus of up to 1.5 million refugees and migrants, relented in the face of the indiscriminate violence unleashed across the north African state.

Earlier Friday, EU foreign affairs chief Catherine Ashton said it was time "to think about what we can do to ensure we are putting as much pressure as possible to try and stop the violence in Libya."

EU officials Friday said 3,400 Europeans had been evacuated from Libya, with 3,600 remaining, many standing ready to be shipped out with military backing.

Several European nations have major economic stakes in Libya, including French and Italian oil giants Total and ENI.

Brussels last week suspended negotiations begun with Tripoli three years ago to strike a trade and cooperation deal.