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Thursday, August 11, 2011

UN envoys concerned over NATO strikes as Libyan TV shows footage of Khamis

Russia, India and other UN Security Council delegations voiced concerns late Tuesday about NATO strikes on Libyan state television last month, saying they were awaiting results of a NATO investigation as the Libyan state television showed what it said was footage of Muammar Qaddafi’s son Khamis, who rebels said last week had been killed.

The criticism of NATO’s strikes came on the same day Tripoli accused the alliance of killing dozens of civilians and highlighted deepening divisions on the Security Council over a six-month war that most delegations originally hoped would last no more than a few weeks.

Speaking after a closed-door meeting of the 15-nation council, at which the July 30 attack on the Libyan broadcaster was discussed at length, several envoys said they wanted NATO to clarify what happened and why the facility was targeted.

“We are very concerned about this (attack),” Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters. “We have urged them to stop this ... We were told they (NATO) are investigating the bombing of the TV station.”

Irina Bokova, the head of the UN cultural agency UNESCO, sharply rebuked NATO on Monday for the attack, which she said killed several people and wounded nearly a dozen.

“I deplore the NATO strike on Al Jamahiriya and its installations,” Ms. Bokova said in a statement. “Media outlets should not be targeted in military actions.”

NATO said last month it bombed three ground-based satellite transmission dishes in Tripoli to silence “terror broadcasts” on state television by Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi during an uprising against his rule.

Carmen Romero, a spokeswoman for the alliance, defended the strikes.

“NATO targeted equipment that had been used to incite attacks against civilians,” she said. “The strike ... hit only three satellite dishes. And we are unaware of any evidence of casualties associated with the strike on those facilities.”

German Deputy Ambassador Manuel Berger said a media organization can be a legitimate target "when it is used to incite violence."

NATO began striking Qaddafi’s forces in March on the basis of Security Council resolution 1973, which authorized UN member states to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya and to take “all necessary measures” to protect civilians.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s spokesman Farhan Haq did not echo Ms. Bokova’s criticism of the NATO attack when reporters asked him about her statement on Tuesday.

“The secretary-general believes that resolution 1973 has been used properly in order to protect civilians in Libya and he has continually emphasized the need, as this proceeds, to make sure that civilians in Libya will be protected,” Mr. Haq said.

Indian Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, who was also critical of the attack on Libyan television, told reporters that council members “await full facts, including from NATO.” Ambassador Puri is this month’s Security Council president.

Lebanese and Brazilian envoys said they were concerned about the NATO attack and wanted an explanation.

Western diplomats cite the case of Rwanda as an example of a media organization that would be a legitimate target.

In Rwanda, the broadcaster Radio Television Libre des Mille Collines aided the 1994 massacre of some 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus by broadcasting lists of people to be killed and announcing where they could be found.

In 1999, NATO attacked the headquarters of Serbian state radio and television in Belgrade, killing more than a dozen people. NATO said that attack was justified because it aimed to shut down President Slobodan Milosevic’s propaganda machine.

Earlier on Tuesday, the Libyan state television showed what it said was footage of Colonel Qaddafi’s son Khamis, who rebels said last week had been killed, visiting Libyans wounded in an air attack east of Tripoli.

The Libyan government has denied rebel claims that Mr. Khamis, commander of one of Qaddafi’s most loyal and best-equipped units, had been killed by a NATO air strike near Zlitan.

Libyan TV said the footage was recorded on Tuesday. If genuine, it would be the first visual proof by Qaddafi’s government that Khamis Qaddafi was still alive.

Wearing a military uniform and an orange beret and bearing a striking resemblance to Khamis, a man was heard chatting to people the network said were wounded earlier on Tuesday in a NATO air strike on farmhouses near Zlitan.

The government said dozens of civilians were killed in the attack. NATO said it hit a legitimate military target and was investigating the incident.

“They bombed the house. You mean you did not expect to be bombed,” Mr. Khamis could be heard asking a woman lying in a hospital bed.


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