Libya could become a peaceful democracy or face a drawn-out civil war, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Tuesday, urging US lawmakers not to cut funds needed to deal with crises abroad.

"In the years ahead, Libya could become a peaceful democracy or it could face protracted civil war. The stakes are high," she said.

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"The entire (Middle East) region is changing, and a strong and strategic American response will be essential," she added.

Clinton spoke a day after the United States began moving warships and aircraft closer to Libya, and froze $30 billion in assets, steeping up pressure on Gaddafi to give up power.

"We are taking no options off the table so long as the Libyan government continues to turn its guns on its own people," she said.

A key US ally in Europe and NATO, however, said that foreign military intervention in Libya will not happen without a clear United Nations mandate.

"At the moment I speak, no military intervention is planned," French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe, told France's lower house of parliament on Tuesday.

"Different options can be assessed, notably a no-fly zone. But let me put it clearly here - no intervention will happen without a clear UN Security council mandate."

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turmoil in the Middle East

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