The UN Security Council has voted unanimously to impose sanctions on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, his five adult children and top associates.

Voting after a day of discussions — interrupted at times for consultations with home capitals — council members agreed on Saturday to impose an arms embargo, freeze the assets of Gadhafi, his four sons and one daughter, and to ban travel by the whole family plus 10 close associates.

The day was consumed mainly with haggling behind closed doors over language to refer Libya's violent crackdown on protesters to the International Criminal Court for investigation of possible crimes against humanity.

All 15 nations on the council ultimately approved referring the case to the permanent war crimes tribunal.

Obama says Gadhafi should step down

The vote came hours after U.S. President Barack Obama said Gadhafi must leave now.

Obama made the comments to German Chancellor Angela Merkel in a private telephone conversation Saturday as they discussed the violence in Libya. The White House says Obama told Merkel that when a leader's only means of holding power is to use violence against his people, then he has lost the legitimacy to rule and needs to do what's right for his country by "leaving now."

The comments mark the first time that Obama has called on Gadhafi to step down.

The Libyan leader has launched a violent crackdown against protesters demanding his ouster and has vowed a bloody fight to the end.

Gadhafi arms civilians in Tripoli

Gadhafi's regime passed out guns to civilian supporters Saturday, set up checkpoints and sent armed patrols roving in the capital Tripoli to put down a revolt by residents inspired by the success of rebels elsewhere who hold about half of the North African nation.

Foreign journalists allowed into the city for the first time since protests engulfed Libya saw the scars of rebellion: a burned police station with piles of ashes outside, walls covered with anti-Gadhafi graffiti and shattered glass and rocks in the streets.

Outside the capital, rebels hold a long swath of about half of Libya's 1,600-kilometre Mediterranean coastline where most of the population live and even captured a brigadier general and a soldier Friday as the Libyan army tried to retake an airbase east of Tripoli. Several cities in the Gadhafi-held pocket of northwestern Libya around Tripoli also have fallen to the rebellion.

The CBC's Carolyn Dunn reported from the eastern city of Benghazi that the rebels there were firmly in control.

A coalition of volunteers including students and professionals are filling the political void by doing many of the jobs the government used to do, such as directing traffic and providing security, she reported.

Banks opened for the first time in days, but many shops remain closed because shopkeepers are still fearful things could flare up again.

Protesters camped at the local courthouse and said they'll stay until Tripoli falls.

With files from CBC News and The Canadian Press