Washington (CNN) — U.S. government officials stepped up their efforts to get American citizens out of an increasingly chaotic Libya Friday, dispatching a ferry with at least 300 people to Malta and making preparations for a chartered flight out of Tripoli.
The Obama administration also took steps to ensure that embattled Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and his top henchmen don’t steal state assets in what may be their final days in power. The Treasury Department has advised banks to monitor accounts held by the regime’s key political figures and to report financial transactions “that could potentially represent misappropriated or diverted state assets, proceeds of bribery or other illegal payments, or other public corruption proceeds,” according to a government statement.
Clashes between Libyan security forces and protesters were reported Friday in Tripoli, a Gadhafi stronghold. Eastern Libya appears to be largely in the hands of anti-government forces.
President Obama spoke Thursday with the leaders of France, Italy and the United Kingdom on coordinating an international response to the crisis in Libya.
In separate phone conversations with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and British Prime Minister David Cameron, Obama “expressed his deep concern with the Libyan government‘s use of violence which violates international norms and every standard of human decency, and discussed appropriate and effective ways for the international community to immediately respond,” a White House statement noted.
While some critics say the Obama administration has been slow to react to the deteriorating situation in Libya, the statement said Thursday’s discussions were to “coordinate our urgent efforts to respond to developments and ensure that there is appropriate accountability.”
U.S. officials have indicated a wide range of options are under consideration, including sanctions and enforcement of a no-fly zone, to try to stop the Libyan government from attacking protesters.
“We’re not going to specify which options are on or off the table,” White House Press Secretary Jay Carney told reporters Thursday. We’re interested in outcomes. … We’re interested in taking measures that will actually have the desired effect, which is getting the Libyan government to stop” killing its own people.
On Wednesday, Obama strongly condemned the use of violence against protesters in Libya and said a unified international response was forming.
“The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous, and it is unacceptable,” he said. “This violence must stop.”