WASHINGTON – Amid mounting international pressures on embattled Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, the United States has slapped unilateral economic and weapons sanctions on Libya's government for its bloody crackdown on protesters."By any measure, Muammar Gaddafi's government has violated international norms and common decency and must be held accountable," President Barack Obama said in a statement cited by Reuters.
Citing grave human rights violations by Gaddafi’s troops, Obama said the sanctions against Libya will target the government while protecting the people.
"We will stand steadfastly with the Libyan people in their demand for universal rights, and a government that is responsive to their aspirations," he said.
"Their human dignity cannot be denied."
The order freezes assets of Gaddafi and four of his children.
It also asks the Treasury Department, in consultation with the State Department, to identify other people linked to human rights abuses related to political repression in Libya.
Earlier on Friday, the White House confirmed that it had suspended operations at its embassy in Tripoli and evacuated all Americans working there.
Protests have raged across Libya for an end to the 42-year rule of Gaddafi.
Estimates put at 2,000 the number of people killed by the troops of Gaddafi, who is facing his worst crisis since he came to power in the 1960s.
Addressing a crowd of supporters in Tripoli's central Green Square, Gaddafi vowed on Friday evening to “crush any enemy”.
Residents said government forces fired on protesters who tried to gather around the capital after Friday prayers.
“They just started shooting people,” Ali, a businessman who declined to give his full name, told Reuters by telephone.
The UN Security Council is planning a vote on Saturday on a sanctions draft describing the attacks on civilians in Libya as amounting to crimes against humanity.
“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.”
The French-British draft asks for an arms embargo, financial sanctions and a request to the International Criminal Court to indict the Libyan leader for crimes against humanity.
Washington did not express direct support for the proposal, but said it was discussing it with permanent members of the Security Council.
“The UN Security Council is a very risky proposition if, for example, the Chinese were not in favor of voting a resolution, and I don't think the administration feels confident that it has all of those ducks lined up,” Charles Ries, director of the Center for Middle East Public Policy at Rand Corporation, said.
Yet, a close visit by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Monday to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva was expected to gather support for sanctions against Gaddafi from European and other foreign ministers.
"She is going to rally the council and the international community to make a continued forceful effort to address the ongoing situation in Libya and the Middle East," Suzanne Nossel, deputy assistant secretary of state for international organization affairs, told Reuters.
"It will help strengthen the unity of purpose in the international community ... to categorically reject the behavior of the Libyan government."
The 47-member body, long riven by ideological differences, on Friday adopted by consensus a resolution condemning violence by Libyan forces.It also declared launching an international inquiry into atrocities it said may amount to crimes against humanity.