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France: Humanitarian Aid is Priority for Libya Crisis

Libyan anti-government fighters sit by a fire to stay warm as they control a checkpoint on the outskirts of the southwestern town of Nalut, Libya, February 28, 2011

France says humanitarian aid and not military intervention should be the priority in dealing with the violence in Libya, amid stepped-up efforts by the Libyan opposition to oust the nation's long-time leader, Moammar Gadhafi.

In a television interview Tuesday, French government spokesman Francois Baroin said Paris is horrified at the violence in Libya and described Gadhafi, as unbalanced. He said military intervention to oust Gadhafi, however, is not France's priority. Rather it is humanitarian aid to help ordinary Libyans.

Baroin's remarks come as the United States pushes for stronger international action against Tripoli. Washington said Monday it is moving military ships and aircraft closer to Libya. Britain has been pushing for a no-fly zone over the North African country.

On Tuesday, France sent two planeloads of medical equipment and staff to the eastern Libyan city of Benghazi, which is controlled by rebels. Baroin said more will follow. France also has proposed sending a team to investigate possible crimes against humanity related to the Libyan leader's crackdown on anti-government protests.

More broadly, the European Union has announced an arms embargo and visa ban against Libya.

In Geneva Monday, European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton condemned what she described as "grave human rights violations" by the Gadhafi government. "The violence and the repression must stop. Those responsible must be held to account."

France and Britain have proposed an emergency summit to discuss the Libyan uprising, which has left hundreds dead and injured, and triggered a massive exodus of foreigners from the country.

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