EU Urges Calm In Libya

The European Union is expressing alarm over the deteriorating situation in Libya where many European states, especially Italy, have substantial investments.

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The European Union is condemning Libya's violent repression of protesters. But as NPR's Sylvia Poggioli reports, turmoil in the North African nation has also exposed a divide in Europe.

SYLVIA POGGIOLI: The European Union finds itself torn by a dilemma: The desire to support democratic reforms, tempered by concern about instability in the Arab world. At crisis talks in Brussels, British foreign secretary William Hague gave Libya a tough list of demands.

Mr. WILLIAM HAGUE (British Foreign Secretary): Britain is calling today for an end to such violence and for all concerned to behave with humanity and with restraint. Secondly, for there to be access for international human rights monitors to Libya as soon as the situation allows.

POGGIOLI: Hague also called for investigations and accountability for police violence and a commitment to genuine dialogue. But the Mediterranean countries Italy, Malta and Cyprus voiced unease over the idea of sanctions against Libya, worried that instability in the region could unleash a new wave of migrants.

Italian foreign minister Franco Frattini, whose country is one of Libya's biggest economic partners, proposed a kind of Marshall Plan for the Mediterranean and a process of peaceful reconciliation in Libya. He voiced concern over the prospect of what he called an Islamic state in eastern Libya near Egypt.

Mr. FRANCO FRATTINI (Italian Foreign Minister): I'm extremely concerned about the self-proclamation of the so-called Islamic emirate of Benghazi. Would you imagine to have an Islamic Arab emirate at the borders of Europe? This would be a really serious threat.

POGGIOLI: EU nations all agree on the need to support the democratic process in the region, but it's not yet clear what practical steps they'll take. In the meantime, many European countries are preparing to evacuate their citizens from an area that could descend rapidly into civil war.

Sylvia Poggioli, NPR News.

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