France calls on Libyan leader to step down


French president Nicolas Sarkozy has stated during a news conference that Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi “must leave,” calling the leader to step down. His comments were made during a press conference with the Turkish president Abdullah Gül in Ankara. Sarkozy also stated that military action to remove Gaddafi isn’t ruled out.

“Our stance is clear. Mr Gaddafi must go. The systematic violence against the Libyan people is unacceptable and will be the subject of investigations and sanctions. Regarding a military intervention … France would consider any initiative of this type with extreme caution and reserve,” said Sarkozy. The United Kingdom is also calling for an arms embargo along with an investigation into war crimes be conducted against Gaddafi.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Sarkozy’s call on Gaddafi to step down comes after violence on Friday alone has left at least five people dead in Tripoli, the capitol of Libya, when security personnel fired on demonstrators. At least 500 people are suspected to have been killed in Tripoli with over 2,000 injured. Gunshots were heard in several parts of the city on Friday. Navi Pillay, head of the human rights division of the United Nations says thousands in Libya could have been killed since the uprising began. Human Rights Watch puts the death toll at 300.

“We think this needs to be brought to the International Criminal Court. We also think that people who still cooperate with Gadhafi should be punished,” added Sarkozy.

Reports say security forces loyal to Gaddafi have used rocket propelled grenades, snipers, anti aircraft guns and foreign mercenaries to repel protesters. Gaddafi blames Osama bin laden and people on hallucinogenic drugs for the mass protests in the country. “(The protesters’) ages are 17. They give them pills at night, they put hallucinatory pills in their drinks, their milk, their coffee, their Nescafe,” he said on Thursday.

In a speech that aired on Libyan State TV today, Gaddafi said to supporters in Green Square in Tripoli, “We can defeat any aggression if necessary and arm the people. Prepare to defend the nation and defend the oil. [We can] retaliate against them [the opposition]. You, the youth, be comfortable… dance, sing, stay up all night.”

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