UN throws Libya off human rights council
The United Nations on Tuesday suspended Libya from its main human rights body over Moamer Gathafi's crackdown on protests as the Security Council warned of new action against his regime.
With growing western calls for a no-fly zone over Libya, Britain's UN envoy said the council would take "whatever measures we consider necessary to respond to events on the ground."
The 192-member assembly passed a suspension resolution by consensus, without a vote, after UN chief Ban Ki-moon urged the body to "act decisively."
The Human Rights Council in Geneva had called for the suspension, which needed a two-thirds majority at the General Assembly to be passed. It is the first time it has acted against a member.
Nobody spoke up for the Libyan regime at the brief debate, though Venezuela accused the United States of planning an invasion, provoking US fury.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the United States "applauds" the move by the General Assembly to suspend Libya's membership and reiterated calls for Gathafi's regime to immediately halt its attacks on the opposition.
"The General Assembly today has made it clear that governments that turn their guns on their own people have no place on the Human Rights Council," she said in a statement.
"The international community is speaking with one voice and our message is unmistakable: these violations of universal rights are unacceptable and will not be tolerated."
The action came three days after the UN Security Council passed sanctions against the regime, including a travel ban and assets freeze against Gathafi, his family and leading officials.
The council also approved an arms embargo and called for an investigation of potential crimes against humanity.
British envoy Mark Lyall Grant called the General Assembly vote a "powerful" signal and said the Security Council may take further steps.
"On the question of the no-fly zone, we are not ruling anything out at this stage. The Security Council is keeping the issue under review," he said.
"We will look to take whatever measures we consider necessary to respond to events on the ground," he told reporters.
The US ambassador denied, however, that there had been council discussions on a no-fly zone.
Britain and France have backed moves toward a no-fly zone but France has said there must be a UN Security Council resolution first. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has rejected such action.
"There is a lot of concern now and a lot of unity," a UN ambassador said on condition of anonymity. "A resolution could be agreed by all if those in favor come to the council with a strong case that it was absolutely necessary."
The UN chief told the General Assembly that there are now more than 1,000 dead and thousands injured in the Libya unrest, and he praised the near universal condemnation of Gathafi's actions.
"While more members of the military are reportedly abandoning the regime... Colonel Gathafi and his supporters appear to be holding a tight grip on western parts of the country, chiefly in Tripoli and neighboring areas," he said.
"According to some accounts, the government is also deploying forces along the Tunisian border."
Ban added that "in these difficult and unpredictable circumstances, it is critical that the international community remain united."
Security Council members are privately mulling some kind of military action in Libya.
But the General Assembly debate was clouded by Venezuela's demands that all countries "put a stop to the invasion plans against Libya," which ambassador Jorge Valero said were being pushed by the United States.
US ambassador Susan Rice called the Venezuelan envoy's comments "shameful," saying they amounted to a "willful and ugly distortion."
"He can live in the fantasy world that he apparently does. Apparently there is more than one delusional person speaking aloud this week," Rice added in a lightly veiled comparison to Gathafi.