Mark Toner, a deputy spokesman for the U.S. State Department, said there wasn't a "one-size-fits-all approach" to regional crises in the world. He defended Libyan intervention by saying Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi was threatening the 400,000 inhabitants of Benghazi with military force.
Toner added that Washington was "diligently working" with African allies in the region to convince incumbent Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo to step aside.
The U.N. refugee agency said Friday that as many as 1 million people have fled violence in Abidjan, the commercial capital of Ivory Coast, since disputed elections in November.
"The displacement in Abidjan and elsewhere is being fueled by mounting fears over the past week of all-out war between opposing forces loyal to Gbagbo and Alassane Ouattara, who both claim victory in last November's presidential election," the agency said in a statement. "Clashes to date have left more than 450 people dead."
In a letter for African leaders early this week, International Crisis Group President Louise Arbour warned that civil war in Ivory Coast "has already begun." In a Friday letter to European leaders, Arbour called on the U.N. Security Council to authorize military action in Ivory Coast.
Pressed on when Ivory Coast held presidential elections, Toner responded "that's a good question, actually."
Ivory Coast is the world's largest cocoa producer. Libya ranks seventh in terms of oil reserves among members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries.