Israel says Libya unworthy of seat on UN Security Council
At Mideast debate, Libyan ambassador accuses Israel of 'ethnic cleansing' and 'terrorism against Palestinian people.'
Israel's ambassador to the United Nations accused Libya on Wednesday of continuing to profess support for terrorism and suggested it was unworthy of its seat on the UN Security Council.
After decades of isolation as a pariah of the West, Libya was elected to the council last year after the United States dropped its opposition. Libya kicked off its 2-year stint on the council by holding the rotating presidency for January.
During a debate on the Middle East, Libya's UN ambassador, Giadalla Ettalhi, angered his Israeli counterpart by accusing the Jewish state of "ethnic cleansing" and rampant human rights violations in the Palestinian territories.
Referring to Israel's recent closure of border crossings with Gaza in response to Palestinian rocket fire, Ettalhi spoke of what he called the "Zionist escalation" and "terrorism practiced by the occupation authorities against the Palestinian people."
Israeli Ambassador Dan Gillerman responded by referring to an article in the UN Charter, which says special attention should be paid to countries' contributions "to the maintenance of international peace" when electing them to the council.
"The importance of this paragraph was highlighted by the litany of bias, distortion, bigotry and hate delivered by a representative of a country that was itself under sanctions ... not long ago, the same people who gave the world Lockerbie," he said.
"That this was done by the president of this council while expressing his total support for terrorism should alarm us all as to what awaits us and what awaits this council in the next 23 months," Gillerman said.
Libya's turn as president ends on February 1, but it will remain on the council.
Tripoli has already proven tough negotiator on Middle East issues. This week disagreements between Libya and the United States prevented the council from adopting a nonbinding statement on the situation in Gaza.
Israel has never been elected to the Security Council, largely due to opposition from Arab and Muslim states, but it participated in the council meeting as an observer.
Libya has only recently been rehabilitated in the eyes of many Western nations after its leader, Muammar Gaddafi decided in 2003 to abandon programs for weapons of mass destruction.
Before that Tripoli had long been accused of sponsoring terrorism and was blamed for the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am flight over Lockerbie, Scotland that killed 270 people. That case led to U.N. sanctions against Libya.