US moves against Libyan chair of human rights body

14 January 2003
The US is mounting a last minute campaign to prevent Libya taking over the chairmanship of the UN Commission for Human Rights when the body meets on 20 January. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said on 13 January that Washington would call for a vote on the nomination, which is usually decided by acclamation, and would urge others to vote against Tripoli. Chairmanship of the body rotates on an annual basis between the five major geographical areas, and the African states, whose turn it is, have nominated Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. The US deems Libya an abuser of human rights and a state sponsor of terrorism, and has sanctions in place to penalise companies investing there (MEED 6:1:03). However, US officials are also admitting that they have little hope of their moves succeeding, and that other states, whatever their doubts about Tripoli's suitability for the post, are unlikely to accept such a breach of protocol. Libya has denounced the US' stance as hostile and an attempt to create divisions among African nations.

Gaddafi, in an interview with the US' Newsweek magazine, said that Libya was exchanging intelligence with Washington about the Al-Qaeda network and that members of the group had tried to assassinate him. 'Fundamentalism is a threat to all regimes in the region,' he said. However, his other statements were less conciliatory. He said that US behaviour towards Iraq was providing a pretext for terrorist actions, and that: 'We don't know who poses a greater threat - the American president or Saddam Hussein.'

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