WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton condemned the violence against anti-government protesters in Libya on Monday and called on the government of Moammar Gadhafi to "stop this unacceptable bloodshed."
Clinton said the world is watching event unfold in Libya "with alarm." The strongly worded statement came amid signs that Gadhafi's autocratic hold on the country was weakening. Still, reports from Tripoli depicted a chaotic scene of low-flying warplanes, snipers atop rooftops and armed men firing indiscriminately on protesters.
At least 233 people have been killed so far, according to New York-based Human Rights Watch.
"Now is the time to stop this unacceptable bloodshed," Clinton said in what amounted to the toughest denunciation of the crackdown in Libya by the Obama administration yet.
The White House, meanwhile, said Monday that officials were analyzing a speech by Moammar Gadhafi's son, Saif al-Islam Gadhafi, to determine whether it held possibilities for democratic changes in Libya. The rambling speech warned that his family "will fight to the last minute, until the last bullet." But he also offered to initiate reforms within days if the protests stop and voiced a willingness to remove some restrictions.
A White House official said the administration was seeking clarification from senior Libyan officials about the government's intentions. The official spoke Monday on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject.
The official said President Barack Obama was briefed by National Security Adviser Tom Donilon late Sunday and was being kept abreast of events throughout the day Monday. The official said the Obama administration is considering "all appropriate actions."
Meanwhile, the State Department has ordered all embassy family members and non-emergency personnel to depart Libya and is warning American travelers of the potential for ongoing unrest in the African nation.
The State Department says U.S. citizens should exercise extreme caution and should avoid areas where demonstrations are likely to occur. U.S. citizens outside of Libya are urged to defer all travel to Libya. The department says there is no indication that Westerners are being threatened or targeted at this time.
In her statement, Clinton said the Gadhafi government must respect universal rights, including the right of free expression and assembly. She said the Obama administration is working with international allies to convey the message to the Libyan government.
Cracks became evident in Gadhafi's government on Monday. At the United Nations, Libya's deputy ambassador at the United Nations, surrounded by fellow diplomats, called for Gadhafi to step down as the country's ruler. Some Libyan diplomats abroad and the justice minister at home resigned.