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Obama, NATO Head Warn Libya Over Violence Against Civilians


NATO leader Anders Fogh Rasmussen warned that attacks on civilians could be "crimes against humanity."
U.S. President Barack Obama says the United States and its NATO allies are considering military options against Libya for its violent crackdown on civilians.

Obama said Muammar Qaddafi and his inner circle would be held accountable for violence against civilians hoping to end the Libyan leader's 41-year rule.

"I want to send a very clear message to those who are around Colonel Qaddafi. It is their choice to make how they operate moving forward, and they will be held accountable for whatever violence continues to take place there," Obama said.

The White House said all options were on the table, including arming rebels, although the State Department said such a move would be illegal unless the UN arms embargo were modified or lifted.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates cautioned action should be taken only with international backing.

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen stressed the need for UN authorization.

Russia, however, said it opposed foreign military intervention. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Libyans "have to solve their problems by themselves."

The U.S. ambassador to NATO, Ivo Daalder, said NATO had launched 24-hour surveillance of Libya with AWACS reconnaissance aircraft.

Meantime, France and Britain said they are seeking UN authorization for a no-fly zone over Libya, an idea that has the backing of the Gulf Cooperation Council.

UN aid coordinator Valerie Amos said more than a million people fleeing or inside the country needed humanitarian help.

The UN appealed for $160 million to fund an operation over the next three months to get shelter, food and medicines ready.

Hundreds of people have died since Libya's uprising began, although tight restrictions on media make it nearly impossible to get an accurate tally.

compiled from agency reports