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Obama talks Libya with leaders of France, Italy, UK

By the CNN Wire Staff
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International attention on Libyan unrest
  • NEW: The White House says the leaders discussed a coordinated response
  • The French Embassy says Obama discussed planned measures
  • The White House spokesman says all options are under consideration
  • U.S. goals are to protect Americans and halt attacks on Libyan people

Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama spoke Thursday with the leaders of France, Italy and the United Kingdom on coordinating an international response to the crisis in Libya, the White House said.

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," the White House statement said.

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."

"The leaders discussed the range of options that both the United States and European countries are preparing to hold the Libyan government accountable for its actions, as well as planning for humanitarian assistance," the White House statement said.

U.S. officials have said all options were under consideration, including sanctions and enforcement of a no-fly zone, to try to stop the Libyan government from attacking protesters.

A statement by the French Embassy said Obama discussed steps the United States plans to take regarding Libya in his phone call with Sarkozy.

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"President Sarkozy presented the measures currently being examined by the European Union at his behest, and which he hopes will be swiftly adopted," the statement said. "President Obama presented the measures that the United States plans on taking."

Earlier Thursday, White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters that a range of options were being discussed, but he refused to provide details or specify those receiving the most consideration.

Carney said the goals of any U.S. response were to protect American citizens in Libya and compel the Libyan government to stop attacking its own people.

"What we have said is we're not going to specify which options are on or off the table. We're discussing a full range of options," Carney told reporters, adding that it was likely any action would be in concert with the international community.

"We're interested in outcomes," Carney said. "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 on protesters in Libya and said a unified international response was forming.

"The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous, and it is unacceptable," Obama said in his strongest and most direct statements to date on the unrest in Libya. "So are threats and orders to shoot peaceful protesters and further punish the people of Libya. These actions violate international norms and every standard of common decency. This violence must stop."

Flanked by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Obama said Libya's government "must be held accountable" for its failure to meet its responsibilities, and he emphasized a growing international chorus of condemnation against the situation.

Clinton will travel to Geneva, Switzerland, on Monday to join a Human Rights Council meeting. The group, part of the United Nations, is negotiating a resolution on Libya, according to European diplomats who spoke to CNN.

Among the elements under consideration for the resolution are a call on Libya to protect its citizens, condemnation of the violence and a demand for an international inquiry and access for humanitarian groups.

The president's public statement before television cameras Wednesday was considered part of an administration effort to counter impressions of inaction and presidential silence involving Libya, with U.S. officials saying the government is considering a range of options to pressure Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

Meanwhile, the United States has been struggling to evacuate its own citizens from the country. On Tuesday, the Libyan government refused permission for a U.S. charter to land in Tripoli.

A chartered ferry with 285 people aboard, including 40 nonessential U.S. Embassy employees and family members, 127 American citizens and 118 citizens of other countries, was docked in Tripoli awaiting a break in the weather to travel to Malta, State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley said Thursday.

CNN's Tom Cohen contributed to this report.