February 23, 2011 / 12:51 PM / 9 years ago

UPDATE 1-Sarkozy urges Europe to suspend Libyan economic ties

* Asks Europe to adopt sanctions, asset freeze, travel bans

* Sarkozy says world cannot just stand by and watch

* Libyan imports in 2009 worth more than $3 bln, mostly oil

(Adds quotes, adviser’s comment, background)

By John Irish

PARIS, Feb 23 (Reuters) - French President Nicolas Sarkozy called on Wednesday for Europe to suspend all economic ties with Libya and to adopt sanctions against the North African country which is brutally suppressing opposition protests.

“I ask the foreign minister to propose to our European partners the adoption of quick, concrete sanctions so that all those implicated in the violence know that they will have to assume the consequences,” Sarkozy said in a statement after a weekly cabinet meeting.

“I would like the suspension of economic, commercial and financial relations with Libya until further notice,” he said.

In 2009, France’s exports to Libya were worth about $1 billion and imports from Libya about $3.1 billion, mostly oil and oil products, making it Libya’s No. 3 export market after Italy and Germany, the foreign ministry said.

A defiant Muammar Gaddafi said in a rambling speech on Tuesday he was ready to die “a martyr” and urged his supporters to crush the uprising that has seen eastern regions break free of his 41-year rule and brought deadly unrest to the capital.

Like many western powers, France has been surprised by the speed of revolt in the Arab world which has toppled entrenched leaders in Libya’s north African neighbours, Tunisia and Egypt.

Sarkozy called for an immediate halt to the violence and a political dialogue to stop the developing tragedy. “The international community cannot be a spectator to the massive human rights violation,” he said.

Sarkozy’s top diplomatic adviser said earlier that European nations should consider imposing sanctions, including travel bans and asset freezes.

Jean-David Levitte said, however, that the international community was not considering any military intervention in the OPEC member ruled by Gaddafi since a bloodless 1969 military coup. Those responsible for mass killings would face international criminal proceedings, he said.

Sarkozy invited Gaddafi to Paris in 2007 for his first visit in 24 years after Tripoli released six foreign medics convicted of infecting Libyan children with the HIV virus, in a deal Paris helped to broker.

They signed a slew of contracts.

Sarkozy said at the time that Gaddafi was not considered a dictator in the Arab world and that he was important as the longest serving leader in the region. (Additional reporting by Emmanuel Jarry; Editing by Louise Ireland)

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