UNITED NATIONS – Libya and Vietnam were elected overwhelmingly on Tuesday to serve two-year terms on the U.N. Security Council, marking the diplomatic revival of two of the United States’ former Cold War enemies.
The vote in the U.N. General Assembly showed how much the ideological map has been redrawn at the United Nations since the Cold War, when U.S. troops battled communist forces in Vietnam and U.S. fighter jets bombed Tripoli in retaliation for Libya’s 1986 attack that killed two Americans at a Berlin nightclub.
Now, Washington is promoting oil and commercial deals with its former adversaries.
The changes have been particularly dramatic with Libya, which had been the target of U.S. and U.N. sanctions for its role in the 1988 bombing by Libyan agents of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland, which killed 270 people.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice met with the son of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi last month and is planning the first visit to Libya by the top U.S. diplomat in more than 30 years. Libya’s U.N. envoy, Giadalla Ettalhi, hinted Tuesday that the Libyan leader might one day participate in a Security Council meeting. “Why not?” he said.
“They were involved in promoting terrorism for a long time against Americans,” countered Vincent Cannistraro, a former CIA expert on Libya who served in the White House when President Ronald Reagan decided to bomb Tripoli. “To see that we now liaise with the Libyans, that we are promoting diplomatic relations, signing new oil agreements – it’s kind of a bitter pill for a lot of people.”
Relatives of the Lockerbie victims expressed disappointment that the State Department had not derailed Libya’s candidacy – as it did in 1995 and 2000 – even though Libya had failed to fulfill its commitment to pay $10 million to each of the victims’ families.
Vietnam’s election to the Security Council proved less controversial in Washington, where prominent Republican and Democratic war veterans have long pressed for closer ties.
The U.N. Security Council is made up of five permanent members with veto power – Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States – and 10 rotating members that serve two-year terms.