Ambassador Rice: Good morning, everyone. We are quite pleased that the Security Council has unanimously passed Resolution 2016, terminating the protection of civilians and no-fly zone authorizations that were contained in historic Resolution 1973. This has been quite an extraordinary period of activity for the Security Council, as well as for the United States, NATO, and Arab partners who participated in the enforcement of Resolution 1973.
And today, many months later, we have the prospect for a free and inclusive Libya, in which the aspirations of the Libyan people can finally be realized in the wake of the transition that’s underway. We’re very concerned that, as we move forward, that the authorities make maximum effort to swiftly form an inclusive government that incorporates all aspects of Libyan society, and in which the rights of all Libyan people are fully and thoroughly respected, regardless of their gender, their religion, their region of origin, et cetera. But for the United States, and, I think, for the United Nations Security Council, this closes what I think history will judge to be a proud chapter in the Security Council’s history, and an experience where it acted promptly and effectively to prevent mass slaughter in Benghazi and other parts of the east, and to effectively protect civilians over the course of the last many months.
I’m happy to take a few questions.
Reporter: Given the level of pushback by Russia on Syria citing the Libya precedent, how long do you think this grudge is going to go on? How long is it going to be before the Security Council can take action on Syria?
Ambassador Rice: I don’t think there’s the relationship that some wish to ascribe between Libya and Syria. The fact is, these are different countries and, in different countries, certain members of the Security Council have differing interests. I think that the effort to use Libya as an excuse not to act in other contexts is not a fair one or an accurate one.
You will recall that there was no member of this Council that voted against Resolution 1973. And indeed, it was very clear, as we discussed and negotiated Resolution 1973, what the authorization of the use of force to protect civilians would entail. And we discussed it very concretely and plainly—we described thoroughly that this would entail active use of air power and air strikes to halt Qadhafi forces that were engaged in offensive actions against its people. And so there was no question that the members of the Security Council knew what they were voting for.
Now, undoubtedly, as this unfolded and occurred over the course of some months, there were those that found increasingly uncomfortable what it was they had agreed to. But to suggest that somehow they were misled is false. And if it is their judgment now that, for whatever reason, they are not prepared to respond effectively and robustly to the crisis underway in Syria, then they ought to be straightforward about the reasons for that and not use Libya as an excuse.
Reporter: Ambassador, if it was envisioned that weapons would be dropped to the rebels by members of the Security Council…the South African ambassador just said that he believed those weapons are now proliferating and are part of the problem in Libya. Do you agree?
Ambassador Rice: I don’t know anything about weapons being dropped. I know the United States did not provide any weapons to anybody in Libya. And I also would note that to the extent that weapons may have been provided by others, that was not precluded by Resolution 1973. And, obviously, we’re all concerned about the importance of maintaining the weapons arsenals that Qadhafi’s regime amassed and to limit the risk of MANPADS, chemical and biological weapons, if there are biological weapons, any other significant weapons, not falling into the wrong hands.
Reporter: There have been reports that South African agents are protecting the son of Qadhafi along the border. If these are in fact true, I mean, does this mean that the U.S. is going to follow up, given the amount of moralizing by South Africa on the mission?
Ambassador Rice: I’ve not heard those reports and I can’t comment on their veracity. I’m sure South Africa, as a responsible member of this Council and the international community, would want to ensure that its nationals are acting in accordance with Council resolutions. And Council resolutions, at this stage, would require that, first of all, that these people are not supposed to be crossing borders, as there are travel bans on many of them. And secondly, in the particular case of Saif al-Islam, he is wanted by the International Criminal Court, to which, I believe, South Africa and others are signatories.
Reporter: About the killing of Qadhafi by the Libyan people, what do you think of the killing of…?
Ambassador Rice: Well first of all, I think we’re all still unsure of what the precise facts of the circumstance of his death were. We welcome that the NTC has said that they will conduct an investigation into that, and we think that’s necessary and important. As President Obama said the other night, nobody likes to see anybody meet an end as bloody as Qadhafi’s was. But I think the most important thing, in addition to a significant and serious investigation, is looking to the future and all of Libyan society putting what has been, in many, many respects, a tragic and bloody past behind them. And moving together towards creating an inclusive, democratic state in which all Libyan people of all backgrounds have a future and have an opportunity to participate.
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