Iran Nuclear NewsLibya hesitant on new Iran sanctions at U.N.

Libya hesitant on new Iran sanctions at U.N.

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Reuters: Libya said on Thursday it was uncomfortable with the idea of sanctions against Iran but vowed to be “constructive” in dealing with Tehran’s nuclear program while chairing the U.N. Security Council this month. By Louis Charbonneau

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) – Libya said on Thursday it was uncomfortable with the idea of sanctions against Iran but vowed to be “constructive” in dealing with Tehran’s nuclear program while chairing the U.N. Security Council this month.

Libya took over the rotating presidency of the council this week after decades as a pariah of the West. It was elected to the 15-nation body along with four other countries in October for 2008-2009 after Washington decided not to oppose it.

Among issues that may be discussed by the council this month are Western calls for a new round of sanctions against Iran, which has ignored repeated Security Council demands that it halt its nuclear enrichment program.

“We will try to be constructive,” Libya’s U.N. Ambassador Giadalla Ettalhi told a news conference in English when asked how he would treat the issue of Iran.

Speaking after the Security Council’s first 2008 meeting, Ettalhi said his country’s return to the council was significant for Tripoli, which in 1992 was hit with U.N. sanctions over the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.

“We are back to normal from the perspective of other countries,” he said.

Also joining the council for two years are Burkina Faso, Costa Rica, Croatia and Vietnam.

The ambassador’s comments came as U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice hosted Libya’s foreign minister in Washington — the first visit by Tripoli’s top diplomat since 1972 — in the latest sign of improving ties between the former enemies.

Tripoli’s relations with the United States and other Western countries have become virtually normal after Libya handed over two suspects in the Lockerbie bombing and in 2003 renounced its weapons of mass destruction programs.

U.S. envoy Jackie Wolcott told reporters after Thursday’s meeting — Ettalhi’s first as president — that she had never imagined she would sit on the Security Council with a Libyan president. But she added that “he performed very well today.”

“We look forward to working with all the new (Security Council) members, including the Libyans,” she said.

HESITANT ON IRAN SANCTIONS

Ettalhi said Tripoli enjoyed good ties with Iran, adding that the Libyans “support states’ right to the peaceful use of nuclear energy.” Tehran says its nuclear program is intended solely for the peaceful generation of nuclear energy.

Western countries believe Tehran has been amassing the capability to build atomic weapons, though a U.S. intelligence report released last month said Iran scrapped its nuclear weapons program in 2003.

Ettalhi declined to comment on how Libya would react if it were presented with a resolution on a new round of sanctions.

“But as a country that has suffered from sanctions we would definitely be in a difficult position when sanctions are proposed,” Ettalhi said, according to a U.N. interpretation of an Arabic reply to a question in Arabic.

Libya is not the only country on the Security Council with doubts about the wisdom of further sanctioning Tehran. Both Russia and China oppose tough additional punitive measures.

Ettalhi said the six key players on the Iran issue — Germany and permanent Security Council members Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States — had not yet agreed on what to do with Iran or when the council should discuss it.

Senior diplomats from the six countries are expected to return to the issue in January.

(Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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