European leaders meeting in Brussels Friday agreed Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi must leave power but said any military option must have a clear legal basis and regional support.
The 27 European Union leaders meeting Friday did agree to one thing - that time was up for Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi. European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso summed up that position in no uncertain terms.
"He must go and this was the unanimous decision of the European Council supporting this approach," he said. "Time is running out, so we have to intensify the international pressure on the current regime to step down."
But member states qualified their support of a push by Britain and France for targeted air strikes against Mr. Gadhafi if he bombs his own people. While the EU will consider all options, the bloc's president Herman van Rumpoy said any action must be backed by the United Nations and the Arab League.
European leaders also did not follow France in officially recognizing the authority of the rebel Libyan National Council in Benghazi although Mr. van Rumpoy said they welcomed the body as an interlocutor. The EU also called for a summit to be held rapidly on Libya gathering the Europeans, the Arab League and the African Union.
It is rare for the EU to hold this kind of crisis summit -- underlying the significance of the Arab protests just across the Mediterranean Sea from Europe. Mr. Van Rumpoy said the bloc wanted to help turn the so-called "Arab spring" into a real beginning for the region.
"The European Union will therefore support all steps toward democratic transformation and economic reforms which benefit the people. Those [governments] who do more reforms will get more support," he said.
The EU also agreed to step up border protection against a possible new flood of illegal migrants fleeing the Arab unrest.