UNITED NATIONS – A Libyan took over as president of the U.N. Security Council on Thursday, capping the nation’s climb back to respectability. But its ambassador said Libya’s past ordeal under U.N. sanctions puts it “in a very difficult position when we speak about imposing sanctions against another country.”
The rapid ascent of Libyan Ambassador Giadalla Ettalhi to this month’s revolving council presidency, occurring during the first month that Libya has ever been allowed onto the council, is a remarkable turnabout for the north African nation long seen as a sponsor of terrorism.
Ettalhi said that Libya’s past as an international outcast would make it reluctant to impose U.N. sanctions on another country.
“I might say that as a country that had suffered from sanctions, we will be in a very difficult position when we speak about imposing sanctions against another country,” Ettalhi said.
The council, which oversees global peace and security, is the only U.N. body whose decisions are all binding. Only the United States, China, France, Russia and Britain have veto power; the 10 other member countries, including Libya this year, are elected to two-year terms.
Among its tools are economic sanctions, arms embargoes, financial sanctions, travel bans and military actions.
The council presidency rotates monthly among members, based on alphabetical order in English. The job requires setting the monthly agenda and running council meetings, but it does not give an ambassador automatic entry into talks exclusive to the most powerful members.
Libya also enjoyed its highest-level contact between the two countries Thursday, in a meeting between U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and Libyan Foreign Minister Abdel-Rahman Shalqam.
President Reagan, who sent U.S. bombers to Libya in 1986 after its attack on a German disco, once described Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi as an “enemy” and sponsor of terrorism from Europe to Africa to the Middle East. Gadhafi came to power in a military coup in 1969.