By Ed Pilkington and Ian Black* 

Libya's leader Muammar Gaddafi speaks on national TV from Tripoli, telling loyalists to take to the streets for a violent showdown to crush ­the uprising. Photograph: Reuters

The UN security council has called for an immediate end to the violence in Libya and demanded that Muammar Gaddafi live up to his responsibilities to protect his own people.
A few hours after the Libyan dictator issued his defiance of the international community, the security council responded with a unanimous statement from the 15 members of the security council that condemned the violence and deplored the repression of peaceful demonstrators. The statement called for the immediate lifting of restrictions on all forms of the media and for the safety of foreign nationals to be ensured.
Libya’s deputy ambassador to the UN, Ibrahim al-Dabashi, who has joined a number of Libyan diplomats in defecting from the Gaddafi regime, said the UN’s position did not go far enough. “It is not strong enough but any message to the Libyan government at this stage is good.” Dabashi said he had received reports that “genocide” had begun in the west of the country, with ground attacks occurring from Libyan forces working alongside “mercenaries from many African countries”.

The US and British governments welcomed the security council statement. Mark Lyall Grant, the UK ambassador to the UN, said its strength came in its contents “and the fact that it is a united message”. The US mission to the UN said it provided a “clear and unified voice that the violence must end immediately”.

The statement has no instant teeth – it will lead to no action on the part of the international community. That would require the forging of a resolution that would take days, if not weeks. Its issuing was preceded by hours of confusion over the Libyan representation at the UN. In farcical scenes the Libyan ambassador to the UN, Abdurrahman Mohamed Shalgham, who still supports Gaddafi, and deputy Dabashi, both claimed to be speaking for their nation.

In the end Shalgham addressed the security council, telling the five permanent members – the US, Britain, France, Russia and China – and 10 non-permanent members that the Libyan public prosecutor had begun to investigate the killings in the unrest so far. The ambassador denied there had been any aerial bombardments of demonstrators, though he did concede that the eastern side of the country was no longer in government control. Read more…

Ed Pilkington is the Guardian’s New York correspondent. He is a former national and foreign editor of the paper, and author of Beyond the Mother Country. Ian Black is the Guardian’s Middle East editor. In more than 25 years on the paper he has also been its European editor, diplomatic editor, foreign leader writer and Middle East correspondent.

As published in www.guardian.co.uk on February 23rd, 2011.


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