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EU says suspending Libya framework agreement

posted 22 Feb 2011, 11:08 by Mpelembe   [ updated 22 Feb 2011, 11:10 ]

The European Union is suspending negotiations on a framework agreement for relations with Libya due to the ongoing violence in the country.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Tuesday (February 22) the European Union was suspending a framework trade agreement it had been negotiating with Libya.

But the EU's top diplomat offered only mild condemnation of the violence in Libya, where human rights groups say the government has killed hundreds of anti-government protesters with live fire. The government has also reportedly used fighter jets and artillery against unarmed protesters.

Human Rights Watch has said 62 people had died in clashes in Tripoli in the past two days, on top of its previous toll of 233 dead.

Opposition groups put the figure far higher. U.N. human rights chief Navi Pillay said the killing could amount to crimes against humanity and demanded an international probe.

Ashton did announce that negotiations on a 'Framework Agreement' for improved relations with Libya were being suspended, but pointedly refused to blame any single party for the violence.

An EU official with Ashton's delegation said that the organization's language and position was likely to sharpen as more information came out about the situation in Libya.

"I deplore the loss of life and I condemn all acts of violence," Ashton told journalists in Cairo. "I call on everyone to exercise restraint," she said.

"We will be suspending the framework agreement which we are in the process of negotiating," she added.

Ashton spoke after she met with Egyptian opposition figures and youth groups who participated in widespread demonstrations which brought down longtime President Hosni Mubarak.

She arrived in Cairo to offer international aid to help the military get the country back to work and to secure a peaceful, swift and orderly transition of power.

Ashton said she would urge the current leadership to hold elections as soon as possible.

"(We need to ensure) that the Egyptian people see clear timetables and the steps that will be taken for the constitutional reform that will pave the way for free and fair elections," she added.

Mubarak was toppled on February 11 after mass protests, and the country is now being governed by a military council. His ousting followed the fall of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali. Both were close allies of the West.

The trip by Ashton follows a visit to Egypt on Monday (February 21) by British Prime Minister David Cameron, the first by a foreign leader since Mubarak quit.