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UNSC approves Libya no-fly zone, India abstains from voting

By Betwa Sharma
March 18, 2011 10:28 IST
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India, along with four other members of the United Nations Security Council, abstained from voting on a resolution that approves a no-fly zone over Libya and authorises "all necessary measures" for protecting civilians there from Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

Ten of the 15-member body voted in favour of the resolution, but five nations -- China, Russia (which have veto power) and non-permanent members India, Germany and Brazil -- abstained from voting.

"This resolution calls for far-reaching measures but we never got answers to very basic questions," said Indian envoy to UN Hardeep Singh Puri.

"This entire exercise has been based on less than complete information." China's top diplomat in the UN Li Baodong said.

"Many of those questions failed to be clarified or answered," Li told UNSC after the vote.

Last week, the Arab League called for a no-fly zone to be established in Libya and the resolution, co-authored by Britain and France, was tabled by Lebanon on Tuesday.

"We cannot let these war-mongers do this," Alain Juppe, the French foreign minister, told the Security Council. "We have very little time... we should not arrive too late."

But India and other members of the Council voiced concerns about the absence of specific details on creating a no-fly zone as well as the lack of clarity on the source of assets for its implementation.

"Passing a resolution is an interactive process. If countries have doubts, you try to remove them. I am afraid that the two countries leading the process (UK and France) did not make the required effort," Puri said.

Susan Rice, United States envoy to the UN, clarified that it was impossible to answer all the questions given that the Council had to act quickly. "We spent many hours going over these issues," she told reporters.

The current resolution also calls for an immediate ceasefire, which Russia had earlier proposed as a smaller resolution. But it never came to a vote because key countries felt that only a ceasefire resolution lacked teeth and would not deter Gaddafi.

Vitaly Churkin, the Russian envoy, warned that an "outside force" could destabilise the Middle East and North African region and described the resolution as "unfortunate and regrettable." The action came as the Libyan leader threatened to launch a final attack to push out rebels from Benghazi, the second largest city of the country.

"We are coming tonight. There won't be any mercy," Gaddafi has told rebel forces.

The resolution excludes "a foreign occupation force of any form on any part of Libyan territory," at it rules out deploying troops on the ground.

It also widens previous sanctions by imposing asset freezes for seven of Gaddafi's supporters and five more entities including key state-owned Libyan companies.

Resolution 1970, adopted on February 26, slapped sanctions on the Libyan regime, including an arms embargo, an asset freeze and travel ban on Gaddafi and his loyalists, and a referral to the Hague-based International Criminal Court.

However, Manjeev Singh Puri, India's deputy envoy to the UN, told the Security Council the international community had to "mitigate and not exacerbate" the situation, and widening sanctions could hurt the economic interest of the Libyan people.

Meanwhile, media reports from the ground suggested that news of the UN resolution had been welcomed in Benghazi. Celebratory gunfire rang out in the city and imams at mosques shouted "God is greatest, God is greatest."

Ibrahim Dabbashi, Libya's deputy envoy to the UN who had turned against Gadhafi, called for the resolution to be implemented "immediately."

Mark Lyall Grant, the UK envoy to the UN, welcomed the vote. "Today's resolution puts the weight of the Security Council squarely behind the Libyan people," he said.

Grant's sentiment was echoed by Rice who said, "Today the Security Council has responded to the Libyan people's cry for help."

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