Libya spurs UN protest with Nazi remark

US, UK, and France walk out of UNSC meeting after Libya compares Gaza to Nazi concentration camps.

UNSC 298.88 (photo credit: AP [file])
UNSC 298.88
(photo credit: AP [file])
The United States, Britain, France and other members walked out of a closed meeting of the UN Security Council late Wednesday after Libya compared the situation in Gaza to Nazi concentration camps in World War II, council diplomats said. The walkout was a rare protest by diplomats on the UN's most powerful body against one of their own members. Libya is the only Arab representative on the council. Council members were meeting privately late in the afternoon to discuss the possibility of issuing a press statement following a briefing on the situation in the Middle East. Assistant Secretary-General Angela Kane had reported on the escalation in violence and growing humanitarian plight in Gaza as well as rocket attacks against Israel. According to several diplomats, Libya's deputy UN Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi ended a long speech about the plight of the Palestinians by comparing the situation in Gaza to the concentration camps set up by Nazi Germany to exterminate Jews. Some 6 million Jews and between 220,000 and 500,000 Gypsies were killed during the Nazi Holocaust. Immediately after Dabbashi mentioned the concentration camps, diplomats said, French Ambassador Jean-Maurice Ripert, US deputy ambassador Alejandro Wolff, Britain's deputy ambassador Karen Pierce, Belgian Ambassador Johan Verbeke and Costa Rica's deputy ambassador walked out of the council's consultation room. South Africa's UN Ambassador Dumisani Kumalo, the current council president, then ended the meeting. "We support the South African presidency's decision to close the meeting," Britain's Pierce said in a statement. "A number of council members were dismayed by the approach taken by Libya and do not believe that such language helps advance the peace process." Kumalo would not confirm the walkout, saying "ambassadors always walk in and out" of council meetings. "It was very clear that we weren't going to agree (on a statement), as we haven't on many other occasions when we've tried, so there was no need to keep us in," he said, adding that some members wanted the council to address the humanitarian situation "which is horrible" while others insist on including the underlying political and security issues. Syria's UN Ambassador Bashar Ja'afari, who is not a Security Council member, told reporters afterwards that he agreed with Libya's characterization of the situation in Gaza. "We have many times compared this situation - I mean the one prevailing in the occupied Palestinian territories - to the situation in Europe during World War II," he said. "Unfortunately, those who complain of being victims of some kind of genocide are repeating the same kind of genocide against the Palestinians." Iran's Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, in a letter to UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on the situation in Gaza, accused the IDF of perpetrating "atrocious crimes against humanity ... resulting in the death and injury of hundreds of Palestinians." In the letter, obtained Wednesday by the Associated Press, he urged Ban "to take all necessary measures in order to stop the inhumane actions of the Zionist regime, and to help alleviate the sufferings of the Palestinian people." "There is no doubt that the continuation of this genocide and actual holocaust will bring about dangerous ramifications for the peace, stability, tranquility and security of the volataile region of the Middle East and the whole world at large," Mottaki warned. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." Mottaki said "the question arises for the nations across the globe as to why the Zionist regime ... has been allowed to continue to be a member of the United Nations." Israel has greatly restricted the flow of goods into Gaza since Hamas seized control last June. It has further tightened the blockade in recent weeks in response to heavy fighting. Israel considers Hamas, an Islamic group committed to destruction of the Jewish state, a terrorist group. In her briefing, the UN's Kane said Gaza has witnessed "heightened humanitarian distress," citing closed crossings and fuel shortages which impact transportation, water supplies, sanitation and the provision of humanitarian aid. "We are deeply alarmed at the prospect of a further intensification of violence," she said, "given the terrible implications for civilians and the threat such conflict would pose to the security of all parties - the Palestinians, Israel and Egypt." The UN supports and encourages Egypt "to continue its efforts to achieve calm in Gaza leading to a reopening of crossings," Kane said.