Libyan Rebels Get Seat at United Nations

The U.N. General Assembly voted Friday to give Libya's seat in the world body to the former rebels' National Transitional Council which led the rebellion that ousted Muammar Qaddafi.

The vote means that a senior council official will be able to join world leaders and speak for Libya at next week's ministerial session of the General Assembly and also participate in meetings.

The resolution was approved Friday by a vote of 114-17 with 15 abstentions, revealing divisions in Africa and Latin America over who should represent Libya.

Also Friday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously approved a new U.N. mission in Libya and the unfreezing of assets of two major oil companies. A resolution approved by the council also lifts a ban on flights by Libyan aircraft and modifies the arms embargo on Moammar Gadhafi's regime.

The General Assembly's credentials committee had unanimously recommended that the former rebels be seated. It's chairman, Panama's U.N. Ambassador Pablo Antonio Thalassinos, said Mustafa Abdul-Jalil, who heads the National Transitional Council, had sent a letter seeking to take over Libya's seat.

The committee's recommendation faced opposition from a left-leaning Latin America trade group ALBA whose membership includes Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba among others.

Venezuela's U.N. Ambassador Jorge Valero, speaking on behalf of the group, accused NATO forces of carrying out "criminal air raids ... in order to install a puppet government" and said seating the council "would represent an abominable precedent that would violate the most elementary principles of international law."

Southern Africa's main regional bloc opposed giving the National Transitional Council credentials immediately, but it failed to win support to defer a vote.

Angola's U.N. Ambassador Ismael Gaspar Martins, speaking on behalf of the Southern African group know as SADC, appealed for the delay saying that while the National Transitional Council "is in control of Libya, it is not the government in Libya, interim or otherwise."

But Gaspar Martins' motion to defer a vote on the resolution to give credentials to the National Transitional Council was defeated. The vote was 22 in favor of a deferral, 107 against and 12 abstentions.