An extraordinary summit of the 27 EU leaders in Brussels is being dominated by the Libyan civil war.
Germany’s Chancellor Merkel called for Muammar Gaddafi to quit immediately saying the EU needs a common line on Libya.
But if there was general agreement on the crisis there was divergence in terms of degree.
France is the only country to have formally recognised the rebel national council in Libya, and expressed a desire for more direct action.
“The British and the French have expressed our availability for purely defensive targeted actions on the express condition that the UN wants it, the Arab League accepts it, and the Libyan authority that we want to see recognised, wants it,” President Nicholas Sarkozy said outside the meeting.
Also on the agenda was a new EU policy on aid for the region born out of criticism that the EU has been too complacent with authoritarian regimes in the past.
British prime minister David Cameron said: “It’s a moment for Europe to say what we have done in the past hasn’t always worked. Now we should be reaching out to these countries, offering them a new partnership, opening up our markets.”
The new policy will include plans to link aid with democratic reforms in southern Mediterranean countries. Four billion euros has been set aside for the region over the next two years.
Libya centre-stage at EU leaders summit