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Thursday, August 11, 2011 | Volume: 11220

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Mugabe labels NATO a 'terrorist group' over Libya
Envoys want NATO answers about strike on Libyan TV

UNITED NATION (Dispatches) -- NATO is a terrorist organization - akin to al-Qaeda - because of its bombing campaign in Libya, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe has said.

He said the group's continued targeting of the Libyan leader and his family was against international law.

Rebels have been fighting forces loyal to Libya's Col Muammar Gaddafi with NATO's support since March. NATO acts under a UN mandate authorizing military action for the protection of civilians in Libya. NATO forces have been enforcing a no-fly zone over Libya - carrying out air strikes on military targets, BBC reported.

The 87-year-old Zimbabwean leader made his comments at a gathering to remember fighters who died in Zimbabwe's fight against white minority rule.

The speech lasted for an hour-and-a-half and was punctuated by attacks on the West, reports the BBC's Brian Hungwe from the capital, Harare.

Sanctions anger

Mugabe said NATO was bombing innocent civilians.

""They seek to kill Gaddafi,"" he said. ""They have in fact deliberately killed some of his children. Now when they do that deliberately, it is exactly what the Taliban and al-Qaeda do - what is the difference in terms of what they (NATO) are doing? ""That's why I say NATO is now a terrorist organization as well,"" he added, to cheers from the crowd.

""If it defies international law it has no rules and goes out blatantly wanting to kill - that's brazen murder, assassination, who then can respect it as a law-abiding organization?""

He warned that Western countries could attack any other African country if NATO was allowed to do as it pleased on the continent.

With elections due next year, Mugabe, whose Zanu-PF party is in a coalition with the Movement for Democratic Change, also hit out about sanctions, BBC reporter says.

Targeted U.S. and European Union sanctions remain on Mugabe and some of his key allies, despite the formation of the unity government in 2009. During his speech, Mugabe repeated threats that companies owned by Western countries operating in Zimbabwe would be expropriated.

""We will have to discriminate against countries that impose sanctions on Zimbabwe,"" he said.

""Why should a company that belongs to Britain be allowed to mine our gold? If they are to continue to operate here then the sanctions must go.""

Mugabe blames the country's economic woes on sanctions, while his opponents say they are the result of years of mismanagement.

Meanwhile, Russia, India and other UN Security Council delegations voiced concerns on Tuesday about NATO strikes on Libyan state television last month, saying they were awaiting results of a NATO investigation, Reuters reported.

The criticism of NATO's strikes came on the same day Tripoli accused the alliance of killing dozens of civilians and highlighted deepening divisions on the Security Council over a six-month war that most delegations originally hoped would last no more than a few weeks.

Speaking after a closed-door meeting of the 15-nation council, at which the July 30 attack on the Libyan broadcaster was discussed at length, several envoys said they wanted NATO to clarify what happened and why the facility was targeted.

""We are very concerned about this (attack),"" Russian UN Ambassador Vitaly Churkin told reporters. ""We have urged them to stop this ... We were told they (NATO) are investigating the bombing of the TV station.""

Irina Bokova, the head of the UN cultural agency UNESCO, sharply rebuked NATO on Monday for the attack, which she said killed several people and wounded nearly a dozen.

""I deplore the NATO strike on Al-Jamahiriya and its installations,"" Bokova said in a statement. ""Media outlets should not be targeted in military actions.""

NATO said last month it bombed three ground-based satellite transmission dishes in Tripoli to silence ""terror broadcasts"" on state television by Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi during an uprising against his rule.

Carmen Romero, a spokeswoman for the alliance, defended the strikes.

""NATO targeted equipment that had been used to incite attacks against civilians,"" she said. ""The strike ... hit only three satellite dishes. And we are unaware of any evidence of casualties associated with the strike on those facilities.""

German Deputy Ambassador Manuel Berger said a media organization can be a legitimate target ""when it is used to incite violence.""

Legitimate targets?

NATO began striking Gaddafi's forces in March on the basis of Security Council resolution 1973, which authorized UN member states to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya and to take ""all necessary measures"" to protect civilians.

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon's spokesman Farhan Haq did not echo Bokova's criticism of the NATO attack when reporters asked him about her statement on Tuesday.

""The secretary-general believes that resolution 1973 has been used properly in order to protect civilians in Libya and he has continually emphasized the need, as this proceeds, to make sure that civilians in Libya will be protected,"" Haq said.

Indian Ambassador Hardeep Singh Puri, who was also critical of the attack on Libyan television, told reporters that council members ""await full facts, including from NATO."" Puri is this month's Security Council president.

Lebanese and Brazilian envoys said they were concerned about the NATO attack and wanted an explanation.

Western diplomats cite the case of Rwanda as an example of a media organization that would be a legitimate target.


 

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