UN approves Libya seat for former rebels

AP News
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Posted: Sep 16, 2011 7:00 PM
UN approves Libya seat for former rebels

The United Nations gave strong backing to Libya's former rebels Friday, handing their National Transitional Council the country's U.N. seat and then lifting and modifying some sanctions imposed on Moammar Gadhafi's regime.

The General Assembly's vote to accept the credentials of the National Transitional Council, which led the rebellion that ousted Gadhafi, gave its representative the right to speak at the United Nations. Libya's former deputy ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi, who early on denounced Gadhafi and backed the rebels, addressed the Security Council hours later.

"Today is undoubtedly a decisive, historic day in the life of the Libyan people," Dabbashi said. "It is an indication that dictatorship has fallen, a period of terror, of denial of freedom, and of violation of human rights has now come to an end for the Libyan people."

"The fact that the National Transitional Council today takes Libya's seat at these United Nations indicates that a new page has been opened in history of the Libyan people _ a page that has been marked by the blood of Libya's sons," he said.

Dabbashi spoke after the Security Council unanimously approved a resolution establishing a new U.N. mission in Libya in response to a request from the NTC for help in establishing the new government.

The resolution also unfreezes assets of two Libyan oil companies, lifts a ban on flights by Libyan aircraft and modifies an arms embargo to allow Libyan authorities now controlling the country to buy arms "intended solely for security or disarmament assistance."

Under the resolution, the no-fly zone imposed in March after Gadhafi launched his crackdown on regime opponents will remain in place but be kept under review.

The resolution lifts the asset freeze on the Libyan National Oil Corporation and Zueitina Oil Company and modifies the asset freeze on the Central Bank of Libya, the Libyan Foreign Bank, the Libyan Investment Authority and the Libyan Africa Investment Portfolio. But the Security Council retained the asset freeze and travel ban against Gadhafi and key family members and regime supporters.

The resolution establishes a United Nations Support Mission in Libya for an initial period of three months with a mandate to assist the new government in restoring security and the rule of law, promoting national reconciliation and embarking on the process of writing a constitution and preparing for elections. The NTC did not request any U.N. peacekeeping troops.

The NTC easily won support in the General Assembly earlier Friday to take the Libyan seat held by Gadhafi's government for the past 42 years.

In addition to allowing Dabbashi speak in the Security Council soon after, the vote means that a senior council official will be able to join world leaders and speak for Libya at next week's ministerial session of the General Assembly.

"This has been an historic day for Libya and a very good day for the United Nations," British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said.

"We all stand witness to the birth of a new Libya," U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice said.

The resolution giving the NTC Libya's U.N. seat was approved by a vote of 114-17 with 15 abstentions, revealing divisions in Africa and Latin America over who should represent Libya.

Ahmed Omar Bani, a military spokesman for Libya's transitional government, said the U.N. decision proved that Gadhafi's regime was over.

"We are so proud because ... that means we are the right people who have the right to lead this country," Bani told The Associated Press.

The General Assembly's credentials committee had unanimously recommended that the former rebels be seated. Its chairman, Panama's U.N. Ambassador Pablo Antonio Thalassinos, said Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, who heads the NTC, had sent a letter seeking to take over Libya's seat.

But the committee's recommendation faced opposition from a left-leaning Latin America trade group, ALBA, that includes Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba among others.

Venezuela's U.N. Ambassador Jorge Valero, speaking on behalf of the group, accused NATO forces of carrying out "criminal air raids ... in order to install a puppet government" and said seating the council "would represent an abominable precedent."

The Southern African Development Community regional bloc also opposed giving the NTC credentials immediately, on the grounds that rebels did not yet constitute a government, but it failed to win support to defer the vote.

Egypt's U.N. Ambassador Maged Abdelaziz urged the General Assembly to seat the NTC, saying close to 90 U.N. member states have recognized the NTC as the only representative of the Libyan people. As Libya's neighbor, he said, Egypt "is the best witness of the most horrifying times that the people of Libya have lived as a result of an oppressive regime that ruled Libya for more than 40 years."

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Associated Press writers Kim Gamel in Tripoli, Libya, and Anita Snow at the United Nations contributed to this report.