France puts diplomatic relations with Libya on ice

Saturday, February 26, 2011

PARIS - The French foreign ministry has announced that it has closed its embassy in Libya and ceased all diplomatic activities in the unrest-beset north African country until further notice.

“Because of the deterioration of security conditions in Libya, France’s embassy in Tripoli has temporarily discontinued all of its activities,” spokesman Bernard Valero said in a statement.

The Russian embassy is now to represent French interests in Libya, in line with international agreements, the ministry said.

A military aircraft had previously flown out all embassy employees and family members. France has evacuated a total of 654 people from Libya, including 498 French nationals and 156 foreigners.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy is scheduled to address the nation in a televised speech Sunday night. His office said the speech will touch upon international affairs.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has faced increasing international pressure over a bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, who have been calling for his ouster for almost two weeks.

The US had Friday announced sanctions against Libya and the shuttering of its embassy in Tripoli.

The UN Security Council was meeting Saturday to discuss measures of its own, while the European Union is expected to make a formal decision on sanctions next week.

France has repeatedly called for sanctions against Libya’s leaders.

Earlier Saturday, the French finance ministry department responsible for targeting money laundering said that all bank accounts belonging to Gaddafi and members of his inner circle have been placed under surveillance.

All financial institutions have been asked to report any suspicious accounts, the Tracfin department said.

Filed under: Diplomacy

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