BRUSSELS — EU nations sharply condemned Libya's crackdown on pro-democracy protesters, and said Monday the bloc will prepare for the possible evacuation of European citizens.
The EU does not have the power to order its member states to evacuate their citizens from a foreign country, but ministers can agree on coordinated action in such cases.
"We are very worried about the situation in Libya," said Spain's foreign minister, Trinidad Jimenez. "At the same time, we are coordinating the possible evacuation of EU citizens from Libya, especially from Benghazi."
Late Sunday, the EU denounced the repression against peaceful demonstrators and urged authorities in Tripoli to exercise restraint faced with peaceful demonstrators.
Several ministers attending the regular monthly meeting in Brussels also expressed concern about a possible massive increase in the flow of illegal migrants from North Africa in the wake of the popular unrest in the region.
Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini called for aid for affected Mediterranean countries to stimulate their economies and provide job opportunities for young people.
"We need a European comprehensive action plan," Frattini said. "We should support all peaceful transitional processes that are ongoing in the Middle East while avoiding a patronizing position."
Frattini expressed concern about a possible civil war and breakup of Libya, saying he feared that an Islamic state could be set up in the area bordering Egypt.
"I'm very concerned about the idea of dividing Libya in two, in Cyrenaica and in Tripoli. That would be really dangerous," he said. Cyrenaica is the country's eastern region, where the largest anti-government protests have taken place.
Libya has seen the bloodiest crackdown of any Arab country of the wave of protests sweeping the region that toppled the leaders of Egypt and Tunisia. Since the six days of unrest began, more than 200 people have been killed in Libya, according to medical officials, human rights groups and exiled dissidents.
"We Europeans are very concerned about the migratory flows impact that would be one of the consequences of more turbulence in North Africa," Frattini said.
He also struck a conciliatory note, saying he hoped the government and protesters could work together to draw up a new constitution as proposed by Seif al-Islam Gadhafi, the son of Libya's embattled strongman Moammar Gadhafi.
Gadhafi's government has threatened to discontinue cooperation with the EU in blocking immigration from the North Africa to Europe, if the bloc continues backing the protesters.
"The European Union should not let itself be blackmailed (by Gadhafi)," said Werner Hoyer, Germany's state minister for foreign affairs.
AP writer Raf Casert contributed from Brussels.
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