Under Secretary of State for Management Patrick Kennedy, Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs P.J. Crowley, and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Janet Sanderson briefed the press on the situation in Libya.
Assistant Secretary Crowley said, "...As was just announced in the White House press briefing, given current security conditions in Libya, coupled with our inability to guarantee fully the safety and security of our diplomatic personnel in the country, the Department of State has temporarily withdrawn Embassy personnel from Tripoli and suspended all Embassy operations effective today. The safety of the American community remains paramount to the Department, and we will continue to provide assistance to the greatest extent possible through other missions."
Under Secretary Kennedy spoke about U.S. efforts to assist American citizens in Libya. He said, "...We moved to get out as many American citizens as we could and who presented themselves at the Embassy. We will continue to work to assist American citizens. The Bureau of Consular Affairs has a 7 by 24-hour by 365-day-a-week capability. If any additional American citizens are in need of assistance, they can contact or their family members or others can contact the State Department, and we will see what we can do. But we have put in, as I said, the last charter flight that we intend to at this time. And we do know that the airport, in spite of it being overcrowded still, is moving some commercial planes in and out."
Deputy Assistant Secretary Sanderson addressed how the United States is continuing to carry on its work with regards to Libya. She said, "...In addition to the responsibilities we have to the American community and to our own mission on the ground, obviously one of the things that the Department has been doing in the last week to 10 days is a full court press in terms of trying to develop a set of options for the President and for his decision makers with regard to the continuing and indeed intensifying violence on the ground, violence against the Libyan people, and what seems to us to be increasing problems with the regime and with the way it is handling its governance of the country.
"You've seen, of course, that the Secretary of State has made a number of calls to her counterparts around the world in the last couple of days. Those calls are continuing. She has consulted with African foreign ministers, European foreign ministers, and others who are interested in the fate of Libya. The Secretary has echoed what the President has said -- we're shocked and appalled by what we have seen on the ground in Libya. We hold the Libyan Government accountable for its actions and the actions of its military and other security forces as these atrocities are being perpetrated. We are deeply concerned about the fate of the Libyan people and we are looking at a variety of options -- a toolkit, if you will, in addition to sanctions, unilateral -- the ones that were announced this morning, or this afternoon, rather, by the White House. But in conjunction with our friends and likeminded allies in the area, we're looking at other options and, of course, there is the multilateral track.
"I don't have a lot of details for you right now. We are having those consultations. They're ongoing. But I think the important thing to take away is that the international community is speaking with one voice about what is happening in Libya. We are all concerned and shocked, and we are looking at ways to try and not only change the behavior of the government, but also hold it accountable for what is happening on the ground.
"The Secretary will go to the Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva in -- on Sunday, I think she departs. The meeting is on Monday. And the President dispatched Under Secretary for Political Affairs Bill Burns to Europe. He is now there for consultations with some of our closest European allies about what's next.
"Obviously, let me say something about the state of diplomatic relations between the United States and Libya. Let me underscore what Pat has said. Our Embassy is not closed. We have suspended operations. We still continue to reach out to the Libyans where appropriate, both directly and through third parties. The Libyan Embassy here is up and running. We have been -- we have not been informed in any change of the status of the ambassador. I will be meeting with representatives of the Libyan Embassy shortly after this meeting to convey our decision about the suspension of diplomatic activities of our mission on the ground in Libya, but the relationship remains and we do have channels of communication to speak directly to the Libyan Government about the very grave concern we have about the evolving situation on the ground."
You can read the full transcript of the briefing here.