S. Africa warns of UN fallout from Libya strikes
South Africa on Wednesday accused NATO of deliberately targeting Moamer Kadhafi and warned that its military campaign in Libya could paralyze other UN 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 a resolution on Syria's crackdown on protests.
South Africa and the African Union demanded greater efforts at the meeting to reach a ceasefire between Kadhafi and opposition rebels.
As one of the 15 Security Council members, South Africa voted for UN resolution 1973 in March which allowed the operation to protect civilians in Libya.
Nkoana-Mashabane told a joint Security Council-African Union meeting on Libya "our intention was never regime change nor was it the targeting of individuals as it seems to be the case with Colonel Kadhafi," according to a copy of her speech released to reporters.
"This is manifested by the ostensible systematic targeting of his residence that led to the death of one of his sons and grand-children in the last few weeks," Nkoana-Mashabane added.
NATO has strongly denied that its attacks have targeted Kadhafi. Western governments have insisted that they are within the UN resolution allowing the protection of Libyan civilians.
"The actions of a broad coalition of partners have protected civilians, saved lives, and averted a humanitarian disaster, especially in Benghazi and Misrata," Britain's UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant told the meeting.
"But Kadhafi continues to launch attacks against his own people. So long as he continues to do so, the coalition will take action to enforce the Security Council's resolutions." He called NATO's decision to extend its operations by 90 days from 27 June "both welcome and necessary."
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.
Russia and China have strongly opposed a resolution on Syria which 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 African Union concern 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."
© 2011 AFP