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UN delegates 'walked out' during Clinton speech

March 2, 2011 10:35 A.M. (Updated: March 3, 2011 9:49 A.M.)
BETHLEHEM (Ma’an) -- Palestine's delegation to the UN Human Rights Council walked out Monday in protest of US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's speech in which she criticized the council for bias against Israel.

The Palestinian representative in Geneva on Tuesday confirmed reports in the Arabic media that delegates stormed out of Clinton's speech, which was heavy on criticism of Israel's neighbors and the UN body.

"We walked out to protest Clinton’s death-defying defense of Israel when she said the council was biased against Israel," Ambassador Ibrahim Khreisha said Tuesday.

He told Ma'an radio that Clinton spoke about human rights violations in Egypt, Tunis, Libya, Bahrain, Yemen and Iran, then cited Israel as a victim and ignored its “crimes against the Palestinians.”

He urged that "blind support for Israel be brought to an end," calling on the US administration to take an impartial stance in the Middle East, particularly on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Clinton's remarks came at a session passing sanctions against Libya's regime, including a travel ban and assets freeze, arms embargo and call for a crimes against humanity investigation.

She said the council discredited itself by frequently targeting Israel.

“The structural bias against Israel – including a standing agenda item for Israel, whereas all other countries are treated under a common item – is wrong. And it undermines the important work we are trying to do together. As member states, we can take this council in a better, stronger direction,” Clinton said.

In New York, the UN on Tuesday suspended Libya from its main human rights body over Moammar Gadhafi's crackdown on protests amid warnings of new Security Council action against the regime.

With growing western calls for a no-fly zone over Libya, Britain's UN envoy said the council would take "whatever measures we consider necessary to respond to events on the ground."

The 192-member assembly passed a suspension resolution by consensus, without a vote, after UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon urged the body to "act decisively" against Gadhafi.

The Human Rights Council in Geneva had called for the suspension, which needed a two-thirds majority at the General Assembly to be passed. It is the first time it has acted against a member.

Nobody spoke up for the Libyan regime at the brief debate, though Venezuela accused the United States of planning an invasion of Libya, provoking US fury.

"This unprecedented action sends another clear warning to Mr. Gadhafi and those who still stand by him: they must stop the killing," said US ambassador Susan Rice, reaffirming calls for Gadhafi to "go."

AFP contributed to this report.
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