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Gadhafi blasts U.N. Security Council

In his first U.N. appearance, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi slams the Security Council and chastised the world body on Wednesday for failing to intervene or prevent some 65 wars.
Image: Protests outside of the UN building
Protesters demonstrate against Libyan leader Col. Moammar Gadhafi outside the United Nations headquarters during the 64th United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday in New York City.Hiroko Masuike / Getty Images North America
/ Source: The Associated Press

In his first U.N. appearance, Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi issued a slashing attack on the Security Council and chastised the world body on Wednesday for failing to intervene or prevent some 65 wars since the U.N. was founded in 1945.

Gadhafi called for reform of the council — abolishing the veto power of the five permanent members — or expanding the body with additional member states to make it more representative.

"It should not be called the Security Council, it should be called the 'terror council,'" he said.

The veto-wielding Security Council powers — the United States, Britain, China, France and Russia — treat smaller countries as "second class, despised" nations, Gadhafi said.

"Now, brothers, there is no respect for the United Nations, no regard for the General Assembly," Gadhafi said.

His speech followed President Barack Obama's first General Assembly address, but not before a recess of 15 minutes was called by the Libyan president of the General Assembly so diplomats could take new seats.

Clinton skips speech
Gadhafi, introduced as the "king of kings" by his countryman and assembly president Ali Treki, remained in his seat for long after the introduction.

The U.S. Mission was represented at a low level by a note-taker and an African expert. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice departed before Gadhafi took the podium.

After waiting for the room to settle, Gadhafi rose and swept his robe over him and strode to the stage, using the handrail on his way up. He wore a shiny black pin in the shape of Africa pinned over his heart, on his brown and tan Bedouin robes.

Gadhafi laid the yellow folder in front of him and opened some of the handwritten pages as he received scattered applause.

Israel's U.N. delegation walked out on Gadhafi.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad stayed on, but left before the speech ended.

The chamber was half-empty as Gadhafi gave his first speech and held a copy of the U.N. Charter in his hands, each with a large, shiny ring. For a moment, it seemed he lost his place in his speech while he sorted through the pages of his yellow folder.

He appeared to be speaking without a text, looking at a set of notes before him on handwritten pages. He was not reading from the teleprompter.

Gadhafi welcomed Obama as the leader of the host nation for U.N. Headquarters, and hailed Obama's maiden U.N. General Assembly speech.

But he said Obama's election as the first African-American U.S. president was a historical moment in world history:

"Obama is a glimpse in the dark for the next four or eight years, and I'm afraid we may go back to square one" after he steps down, Gadhafi said. When he suggested Obama should stay on as U.S. leader indefinitely there was scattered applause.

'Inequality' at U.N.
He railed against the "inequality" of U.N. member states, quoting from a copy of the U.N. Charter that calls for equality of nations, and then noting that five nations hold veto power on the Security Council and can block actions contrary to their interests: the United States, Russia, China, Britain and France.

Speaking Arabic, Gadhafi said the use of military power was contrary to the spirit of the U.N., unless such actions are sanctioned by the United Nations.

Since the world body was founded in 1945, Gadhafi said it had failed to prevent or intervene in dozens of wars around the world.

"But 65 aggressive wars took place without any collective action by the United Nations to prevent them, Gadhafi said.

Speech runs long
In his speech, Gadhafi cited U.N. chapter and verse in questioning the U.N.'s lack of action to halt dozens of wars — elaborating at length on many of them individually.

Ninety minutes into Gadhafi's speech, the exhausted English-language interpreter was relieved by another simultaneous translator.

Fatigue may have been endemic. Well into Gadhafi's rambling speech, more than half the General Assembly seats were empty as the lunch hour arrived. Delegates had begun walking out after Gadhafi's reference to the Security Council as the "terror council."

The Libyan leader's speech ran 1 hour and 36 minutes, no threat to the record set by Cuban leader Fidel Casto in 1960, at 4 1/2 hours. Speakers are supposed to limit themselves to 15 minutes.

No tent stay
Gadhafi's exhaustion may have been complicated by his uncertain sleeping arrangements. He apparently intended to stay in his Bedouin tent in the suburban Westchester town of Bedford on property leased from Donald Trump, but ended up staying at the Libyan U.N. Mission in Manhattan instead.

Gadhafi will likely face protests over Scotland's recent release of Libyan Abdel Baset al-Megrahi, who was convicted of the 1988 bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 which killed 270 people.

Gadhafi had wanted to pitch a tent at Libya's five-acre estate in Englewood, New Jersey, and live and entertain there during the UN assembly. But local opposition turned him away.

Later, the Libyan government asked to use Manhattan's Central Park for a tent, but the request was denied.

But events continued to change throughout the day.

"We have been told by the Secret Service that at some point Gadhafi will be in Bedford. The Secret Service has asked the county police — along with the state police and the town police — to help protect him," Andy Spano, county executive, told NBC News.

"We have no choice but to help with law enforcement, but I remain outraged that our taxpayers have to help protect someone that we don't want in this county."

Gadhafi said that if the U.N. was moved out of New York, "You will thank me for not having to travel for 20 hours to this place."