Magazine article UN Chronicle , Vol. 23
Security Council does not adopt text condemning United States armed attack against Libya
Three permanent members of the Security Council--the United States, the United Kingdom and France--on 21 April cast vetoes against a draft resolution by which the Council would have condemned "the armed attack' by the United States against the Libyan cities of Tripoli and Benghazi "in violation of the Charter of the United Nations and the norms of international conduct'. The Council would have also called on the United States to "refrain forthwith from any attacks or threats thereof'.
The text also called on the Council to condemn "all terrorist activities, whether perpetrated by individuals, groups or States', and called on all parties to "refrain from resorting to force, to exercise restraint in this critical situation, and to resolve their differences by peaceful means in keeping with the Charter'.
The Secretary-General would have been asked to take all appropriate steps to restore and ensure peace in the Central Mediterranean and to keep the Council regularly informed of the implementation of the resolution.
The vote on the draft (S/18016/ Rev.1) was 9 to 5, with 1 abstention. Australia and Denmark, two non-permanent Council members, joined the three Western Powers in casting nagative votes. Venezuela abstained. Voting for the draft were Bulgaria, China, Congo, Ghana, Madagascar, Thailand, Trinidad and Tobago, USSR and the United Arab Emirates.
Vetoes: The United States rejected the draft as "totally unacceptable'. Its assumption that the essential problem before the Council stemmed from actions of the United States armed forces against Libya was false, contradicted by irrefutable evidence and by the "long and tragic list of countries which have suffered brutality after brutality at the hands of Libyan terrorism'. The real issue before the Council, the United States said, was not dealt with by the draft: Libya's "blatant, unrepentant and continuing use of force' in violation of the Charter.
For the Council to endorse such an "erroneous and deficient' text would be to mock the commitment of the United Nations to oppose terrorism in all its forms as "criminal conduct that must be resisted and punished'. The United States was "outraged' that the draft had not mentioned Libya's brutal, growing and increasingly violent "campaign of terror'.
The text would have equated the use of terrorism with an act of justified self-defence against terrorism. It would have condemned acts of the United States against Libya but ignored Libya's "undeniable use of terrorism'. It would have created an "appearance of even-handedness, but not the reality'. Nowhere in it had Libya been asked to refrain from its "murderous activities'.
France, which had not associated itself with the United States intervention against Libya, nevertheless believed that the text was not acceptable because it was "excessive and unbalanced'; in particular, Libyan responsibility had not been memtioned.
The United Kingdom also pointed out that the draft did not mention Libya, and had omitted any reference to the "long-history of state-directed provocations, state-directed terrorism'. That was enough to justify the Council in deciding not to adopt the text.
Two sessions: The Council met in two sessions (12-14 April, 15-24 April) on items related to the situation in the Mediterranean region.
It convened twice--on 12 and 14 April--in response to a request by Malta to consider action "to stop the repeated threat of use of force, as well as the imminent resort to armed attack in the central Mediterranean'. At those meetings, statements were made by Malta, the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, the United States and the USSR.
Malta on 12 April put forward a text (S/17984) by which the Council would have, in preambular paragraphs: expressed deep concern at "the massive mobilization of naval forces in the central Mediterranean in preparation for a military attack on Libya'; considered that "the use of force constitutes a threat to international peace and security'; and reaffirmed the obligation of all United Nations Member States to refrain from the threat or use of force in the settlement of disputes, in accordance with the Charter. …