Russia, South Africa object to draft UN resolution on Libya

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — A U.N. resolution that would endorse a plan to restore peace to Libya and condemn the recent increase in violence faced opposition Wednesday from Russia and South Africa.

The two countries raised objections to the British-drafted Security Council resolution, which backs the 55-point road map to end the war in Libya that was approved by leaders of 12 world powers and other key countries in Berlin on Jan. 19.

Belgium’s U.N. ambassador, Marc Pecsteen de Buytswerve, the current council president, told reporters after brief closed council consultations on the draft resolution that “efforts are continuing” to reach agreement.

“My own feeling is that we are close, but there are still some efforts that are required,” he said, adding that he urged all council members “to show flexibility in order to get an agreement.”

The proposed resolution recalls the commitment of all participants at the Berlin meeting to support a cease-fire, refrain from interfering in Libya's conflict and its internal affairs, fully comply with a U.N. arms embargo, and withdraw all mercenaries who have been increasingly involved in the fighting.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said at a news conference Tuesday that the Berlin agreement has been repeatedly violated by continuing arms deliveries to the warring parties and escalating fighting. He called the current offensives by rival forces “a scandal,” saying “all the commitments that were made apparently were made without a true intention of respecting them.”

Libya has been in turmoil since 2011, when a civil war toppled longtime dictator Moammar Gadhafi who was later killed.

A weak U.N.-recognized administration that holds the capital Tripoli and parts of the country's west is backed by Turkey, which recently sent thousands of soldiers to Libya, and to a lesser degree Qatar and Italy. On the other side is a rival government in the east that supports self-styled Gen. Khalifa Hifter, whose forces launched a surprise offensive to capture the capital last April and are backed by the United Arab Emirates and Egypt as well as France and Russia.

The Tripoli authorities and U.S. officials have accused Hifter of relying on hundreds of Russian mercenaries. Sudanese armed groups from the Darfur region recently joined the fighting on both sides, according to a report by U.N. experts.

The draft resolution welcomes the cease-fire talks between Libya’s warring sides that began Tuesday in Geneva and asks Guterres to submit his views to the Security Council on conditions for a cease-fire and proposals for effective monitoring of a truce, “taking into account the possibility of contributions from regional organizations.” That could mean the African Union, which is currently holding a summit in Addis Ababa that ends Feb. 10, the Arab League or European Union.

Asked about his reported objection to the mention of mercenaries in the draft, Russian Ambassador Vassily Nebenzia said that “this resolution does not take into account our concerns, and our vision how it should be.” He refused to give any details but said that “there are a lot of FTFs (foreign terrorist fighters) in Libya.”

Diplomats said South Africa also wanted amendments to the text.

British Ambassador Karen Pierce said the language in the resolution, including on mercenaries, is in line with language previously used by the Security Council.

“I think things are just getting worse," Pierce said, “and I think that’s one reason why the Security Council resolution is so badly needed, and that’s why we’re going to put all our energies into trying to persuade those outliers to come on board.”