After the summit, Sarkozy told the press that "acts of war" were being perpetrated by the Gaddafi regime against the Libyan people and what was needed was not a diplomatic change of tone, but something completely different.
"All necessary options considered by European leaders are not necessarily diplomatic options," he said, referring to the final document adopted by heads of state and government at the summit.
An all-options framework
"Member states will examine all necessary options, provided that there is a demonstrable need, a clear legal basis and support from the region. Those responsible will be held accountable and face grave consequences. We will work with the United Nations, the Arab League, the African Union and our international partners to respond to the crisis. We call for the rapid holding of a summit between the Arab League, the African Union and the European Union," the summit declaration reads.
According to Sarkozy, such a meeting could take place in the coming weeks.
No military action without UN mandate?
The French president also said that to pursue the option of military action a UN mandate would be necessary and "preferable", but added that if there was demand for such action from the region, then his country would take the necessary decisions.
Diplomats told EurActiv that if Arab countries were to take the lead in stopping Gaddafi from slaughtering his people, France and the UK would provide "the necessary backup".
An Arab league summit is scheduled to take place tomorrow in Cairo.
At a separate press conference, UK Prime Minister David Cameron said that "words are not enough" to deal with the brutality of the Gaddafi regime.
"Of course the EU is not a military alliance, and I don't want it to be a military alliance. Our alliance is NATO, which discussed these issues yesterday. But I think on the urgent question of how do we deal with Libya, how do we turn up the pressure, we've made good progress today and it was worth having this meeting," Cameron said.
Referring to the marathon meetings held at ministerial and diplomatic level over the last few days in Brussels and New York, he said: "I think we have made good progress in the UN, good progress in the EU, and good progress in NATO."
EU's silent majority
But diplomats from other EU countries appeared unimpressed by the hardline stance taken by France and the UK.
The EU mainstream political line is that to use force against Gaddafi, a resolution of the UN Security Council is needed. Also, many countries regretted that the two countries had recognised the rebel-led Libyan National Council in Benghazi.
On this point, the summit declaration states that the interim National Council based in Benghazi is "a political interlocutor" for the EU, a sentence that indicates a lack of sufficient consensus to call it "the interlocutor".
"We will accept the Libyan National Council as a dialogue partner. We have already contacted them, but we will not accept them as the sole partner for dialogue," German Chancellor Angela Merkel told the press.
Speaking to EurActiv, a diplomat from a Nordic country labelled France's decision to establish relations with and send an ambassador to the Benghazi-based council "idiotic".
EU Council President Herman Van Rompuy, upon being asked if he was comfortable about the fact that turncoat ministers, responsible for the caricature trials of Bulgarian nurses, were represented in the National Council, replied that those same people were risking their lives by standing against Gaddafi.
European Parliament Vice-President Isabelle Durant (Greens/European Free Alliance group; Belgium) told EurActiv that the urgency of establishing contact with the Libyan opposition had prevailed against checking the backgrounds of their members. Yesterday, the parliament overwhelmingly voted to establish such relations.
But she strongly criticised Sarkozy for envisaging military action without a UN mandate. She wondered whether the French president was trying to show some muscle because he was worried by recent opinion polls putting him behind Marine Le Pen, president of the far-right Front National.
Le Pen, who has declared herself a candidate for presidential elections due in 2012, is currently visiting the Italian island of Lampedusa, where many immigrants from Northern Africa arrived in the wake of the Tunisia revolution.
Meanwhile, the situation in Libya has further deteriorated, with the military momentum turning against the rebels (see 'Background'). US Director of National Intelligence James Clapper said that better-equipped Gaddafi forces would prevail in a long-term fight with rebels (see 'Positions').