Libya's rebels given seat on UN

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The United Nations gave strong backing to Libya's former rebels, handing their National Transitional Council the country's UN seat and lifting and modifying some of the sanctions imposed on Muammar Gaddafi's regime. They also freed up billions of pounds worth of Libyan assets held overseas.

The General Assembly's vote last night to accept the credentials of the National Transitional Council, which led the rebellion that ousted Gaddafi, gave its representative the right to speak at the United Nations.

Libya's former deputy ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi, who early on denounced Gaddafi and backed the rebels, addressed the Security Council hours later.

"Today is undoubtedly a decisive, historic day in the life of the Libyan people," Mr Dabbashi said. "It is an indication that dictatorship has fallen, a period of terror, of denial of freedom, and of violation of human rights has now come to an end for the Libyan people."

"The fact that the National Transitional Council today takes Libya's seat at these United Nations indicates that a new page has been opened in history of the Libyan people - a page that has been marked by the blood of Libya's sons."

He spoke after the UN Security Council unanimously approved a resolution establishing a new mission in Libya in response to a request from the NTC for help in establishing the new government.

The resolution also frees assets of two Libyan oil companies, lifts a ban on flights by Libyan aircraft and modifies an arms embargo to allow Libyan authorities now controlling the country to buy arms "intended solely for security or disarmament assistance".

Under the resolution, the no-fly zone imposed in March after Gaddafi launched his crackdown on regime opponents will remain in place, but be kept under review.

The asset freeze on the Libyan National Oil Corporation and Zueitina Oil Company is lifted and the freeze on the Central Bank of Libya, the Libyan Foreign Bank, the Libyan Investment Authority and the Libyan Africa Investment Portfolio modified.

The asset freeze and travel ban against Gaddafi and key family members and regime supporters remains in place.

The UN support mission will initially operate for a period of three months. It will assist the new government in restoring security and the rule of law, promoting national reconciliation and embarking on the process of writing a constitution and preparing for elections.

The resolution establishes a United Nations Support Mission in Libya for an initial period of three months with a mandate to assist the new government in restoring security and the rule of law, promoting national reconciliation and embarking on the process of writing a constitution and preparing for elections. The NTC did not request any UN peacekeeping troops.

The NTC easily won support in the UN General Assembly earlier Friday to take the Libyan seat held by Gaddafi's government for the past 42 years.

In addition to allowing Mr Dabbashi speak in the security council soon after, the vote means that a senior council official will be able to join world leaders and speak for Libya at next week's ministerial session of the general assembly.

"This has been an historic day for Libya and a very good day for the United Nations," the UN's British ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said.

The resolution giving the NTC Libya's UN seat was approved by a vote of 114-17 with 15 abstentions, revealing divisions in Africa and Latin America over who should represent Libya.

The general assembly's credentials committee had unanimously recommended that the former rebels be seated. Its chairman, Panama's UN ambassador Pablo Antonio Thalassinos, said Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, who heads the NTC, had sent a letter seeking to take over Libya's seat.

But the committee's recommendation faced opposition from a left-leaning Latin America trade group, ALBA, that includes Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba among others.

The Southern African Development Community regional bloc also opposed giving the NTC credentials immediately, on the grounds that rebels did not yet constitute a government, but it failed to win support to defer the vote.