US envoy backs UN's 'responsibility' to civilians

January 30, 2009 01:50

US Ambassador Susan Rice signaled Thursday during her first appearance before the UN Security Council that President Barack Obama's administration feels a "responsibility" to sometimes take on nations that abuse their own citizens. "As agreed to by member states in 2005 and by the Security Council in 2006, the international community has a responsibility to protect civilian populations from violations of international humanitarian law when states are unwilling or unable to do so," Rice told the council, without elaborating, during a closed-door session. "But this commitment is only as effective as the willingness of all nations, large and small, to take concrete action. The United States takes this responsibility seriously," she said, according to a transcript of her remarks made available to reporters later. During the past year the UN has debated whether it has a "responsibility to protect" civilians in such cases. Last May, for example, the council discussed a proposal by France to authorize the UN to enter Myanmar and deliver aid without waiting for approval from the nation's ruling military junta. Several countries, citing issues of sovereignty, blocked the idea.

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