SA slams Nato's 'regime change' in Libya in UN speech

South Africa on Wednesday accused Nato of deliberately targeting Muammar Gaddafi and warned that its military campaign in Libya could paralyse other United Nations Security Council action.

South Africa’s Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane gave a thinly veiled warning to the 15-member council that the air strikes in Libya were harming efforts to agree on a resolution regarding Syria’s crackdown on protests.

South Africa and the African Union demanded greater efforts at the meeting to reach a ceasefire between Gaddafi and opposition rebels.

As one of the 15 Security Council members, South Africa voted for United Nations resolution 1973 in March, which gave a mandate to protect civilians in Libya.

Nkoana-Mashabane told a joint Security Council-African Union meeting on Libya that “our intention was never regime change nor was it the targeting of individuals as it seems to be the case with Colonel Gaddafi,” according to a copy of her speech, released to reporters.

“This is manifested by the ostensible systematic targeting of his residence, which led to the death of one of his sons and grandchildren,” Nkoana-Mashabane added.

‘Not targeting Gaddafi’
Nato has strongly denied that its attacks have targeted Gaddafi. Western governments have insisted that they are acting within the mandate of the UN resolution, allowing the protection of Libyan civilians.

The minister reaffirmed accusations made by South African President Jacob Zuma this week that Nato has exceeded its mandate. She said it was “now engaged in activities that insinuate regime change”.

“Nato activities will undoubtedly have a bearing on other important matters that the council has to deal with in accordance with its mandate,” Nkoana-Mashabane said in reference to European efforts to get a resolution condemning the Syrian government crackdown on opposition protests.

“We hope that those implementing the resolution will heed this message or risk the paralysis of the council,” she warned.

Syrian paralysis
Russia and China have strongly opposed a resolution on Syria that has been proposed by Britain, France, Germany and Portugal.
South Africa, Brazil and India have indicated they will abstain, partly because they fear a repeat of events in Libya.

Mauritania’s Foreign Minister Hamady Ould Hamady, speaking for an AU delegation at the meeting, called for a “humanitarian pause” in the Libyan conflict.

He did not directly mention the Nato strikes but highlighted AU concerns about what he called the “dangerous precedent being set by the one-sided interpretations” of UN resolutions on Libya.

“We are held to the duty of keeping in mind the indescribable suffering inflicted upon the Libyan civilian population,” the minister said.

“The prolongation of these military operations in Libya poses, each day, new challenges as much for the chances of a successful democratic transition in Libya as for the security and stability of the countries in the region.”

Britain’s ambassador to the UN, Mark Lyall Grant told reporters that “the pre-condition for a humanitarian pause is that Gaddafi stops attacking civilians.”

French envoy Gerard Araud added: “French authorities believe that a peaceful and democratic future is not conceivable with Gaddafi; it is simple. It is common sense. But what counts is that the Libyans negotiate an end to this crisis themselves.”—Sapa-AFP

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