UN diplomat wants Libya NATO investigation

AP News
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Posted: Jan 04, 2012 5:14 PM
UN diplomat wants Libya NATO investigation

The incoming U.N. Security Council president called Wednesday for an investigation into human rights abuses committed during NATO's bombing campaign to oust Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi.

South Africa's U.N. Ambassador Baso Sangqu, who holds the rotating Security Council presidency for January, said he believed NATO overstepped its mandate enforcing a no-fly zone, killing an untold number of innocent civilians.

"We were alive to the fact that the implementation of the resolution itself would have its own problems, but we now hear strong voices that talk about many mistakes that were made," Sangqu said. "They were supposed to be precision strikes, but it was clear that those were not that precise."

Sangqu said U.N. human rights officials are currently conducting investigations on the ground, but demanded that they must look at all parties involved.

"There must be investigations of human rights abuses in Libya across the board: by Gadhafi regime supporters, by the rebels, by NATO, anybody who was involved in that conflict as mandated by the resolution 1973 and 1970 should be held accountable especially those that were mandated," Sangqu said.

Sangqu, who said he was speaking in his capacity as South Africa's ambassador, said he believed the Security Council resolution that his country supported authorized only a no-fly zone but did not mean "regime change or anything else."

Sangqu's remarks echoed a similar call by Russia's U.N. Ambassador Vitaly Churkin, who recently expressed unhappiness with Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon over the U.N. chief's comment that NATO acted within its mandate in its bombing campaign in Libya.

Russia has also called for an independent U.N. investigation of civilian casualties. Syria's President Bashar Assad is a close Russian ally.

NATO spokeswoman Oana Lungescu denied that the alliance exceeded its mandate or that the bombing resulted in a large number of civilian casualties.

"Throughout the operation, we took every precaution to minimize the risk to civilians with solid intelligence, a very strict target selection and precision-guided munition," Lungescu said, speaking from Belgium. "And we repeatedly warned civilians to stay away from military installations and equipment. We did everything we could to reduce the risk, while also making clear that in an air campaign that risk can never be zero."

(This version CORRECTS Updates with additional details and quotes. Corrects spelling of NATO spokeswomen's name, Lungescu instead of Longescu. For global distribution.)