Continued from page 1

Evan Kohlmann, a terrorism specialist with the Nine Eleven Finding Answers Foundation, said Libya presents an ideal opportunity for the AQIM.

“There is a power vacuum they can come in and fill,” he said. “There are places like the city of Derna that are known to be hotbeds of extremist activity. I don’t think there is a mass militant movement, but there are certainly isolated extremists.”

In Washington, President Obama consulted with world leaders about the crisis in Libya. White House officials said they were reviewing various options, including sanctions and a no-fly zone.

The French government issued a statement after Mr. Obama’s phone call with President Nicolas Sarkozy. It stated: “President Sarkozy presented the measures currently being examined by the European Union at his behest, and which he hopes will be swiftly adopted. President Obama presented the measures that the United States plans on taking.”

In Libya on Thursday, Col. Gadhafi said in a speech that al Qaeda was directly responsible for fomenting the unrest and that the demonstrators were drug-crazed teenagers.

One concern for U.S. officials has been the status of Libya’s remaining stocks of mustard gas. Analysts generally think Libya has about 14 tons of the blistering agent.

White House National Security Council spokesman Thomas Vietor said the United States had “no information to suggest” the chaos in Libya has “placed Libya’s [chemical weapons] material at risk of unauthorized access.”

But he added: “However, as even the possibility of [chemical weapons] material falling into the wrong hands is deeply concerning, we are doing what we can to maintain awareness as to the security of these materials.”