US President Barack Obama (file photo)
US President Barack Obama (file photo)

President Barack Obama says the U.S. and its allies are "slowly tightening the noose" around Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.  During a Friday news conference, Mr. Obama said he had not taken any options "off the table" in terms of a possible response to Mr. Gadhafi's crackdown on government opponents.

Mr. Obama also announced he would be appointing a special envoy to deal with Libyan opposition forces.  His announcement came just hours after the European Union agreed to acknowledge rebel leaders.

EU leaders meeting in Brussels on Friday agreed that Libya's opposition National Council is a legitimate political entity.  However, the 27-nation bloc stopped short of giving the council full diplomatic recognition.  France has officially recognized the rebel group and had urged the EU to do the same.

Foreign ministers in the 27-nation bloc also agreed to examine "all necessary options" to protect Libyan citizens.

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon announced Friday that he is sending a special envoy to Tripoli for talks on ending the escalating violence.  The U.N. chief said that former Jordanian foreign minister Abdul Ilah Khatib will lead a U.N. delegation that will meet with Libyan representatives next week.

Mr. Ban said civilians had "borne the brunt of violence" in Libya.  He said the violence must stop and humanitarian assistance must get to those in need.

Separately, the U.N. Human Rights Council has named a three-member panel that will investigate alleged human rights violations in Libya.  The panel will be led by Egypt's Cherif Bassiouni, a war crimes expert.

Arab League leaders are due to meet on the Libyan crisis in Cairo on Saturday.  A pro-Gadhafi delegation from Libya arrived in the Egyptian capital Friday for those talks.

The Arab League has previously suspended the Tripoli government's membership, and it is not clear whether the league will allow Mr. Gadhafi's delegates to participate in the meeting.