Libyan leader Moammar Qaddafi has selected a fiery former Nicaraguan foreign minister and U.N. General Assembly president, Father Miguel d'Escoto Brockman, to represent him at the United Nations.
Libya's erstwhile Foreign Minister Musa Imhimid Kusa wrote a letter to U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on March 27 stating that Libya "has decided to appoint Mr. Miguel D'Escoto Brockman, former minister of foreign affairs of Nicaragua, as its representative to the United Nations in New York, being therefore also authorized to speak on its behalf in all of the organs of the United Nations system."
But Susan E. Rice, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, questioned D'Escoto's right to take up the Libyan seat at the United Nations, noting that Kusa, the man who informed the U.N. of the Nicaraguan's appointment, defected today and was no longer in the Libyan government.
"The first question is whether he has actually been appointed in any legitimate fashion that anybody needs to consider at this stage," Rice told reporters outside the U.N. Security Council this evening.
Rice also noted that D'Escoto, who was born in Los Angeles but renounced his U.S. citizenship, arrived in the U.S. recently on a tourist visa.
"A tourist visa does not allow you to represent any country, Nicaragua, Libya, or any other at the United Nations," she said. "Should he wish and should in fact the Libyan regime seek to renominate him by some legitimate representative of the Libyan government, which itself is questionable in its legitimacy, to be the putative Permanent Representative here, that person, if he were to be Mr. D'Escoto, needs to leave the United States and apply for an appropriate G1 visa. If he purports to be or act like a representative of a foreign government on a tourist visa, he will soon find that his visa status will be reviewed."
The move comes exactly one month after Qaddafi's government instructed Ban to withdraw the accreditation of his previous ambassador, Abdurahman Mohamed Shalgam, who broke with his former leader and urged the U.N. Security Council to pursue a war crimes investigation against members of Qaddafi's regime. Libya's rebel national transition authorities, however, have written to the U.N. to ask that Shalgam be recognized as their diplomatic representative to the United Nations.
While the U.N. has stripped Shalgam and his deputy, Ibrahim Dabbashi, of their accreditation as Libyan diplomats, it has provided them with courtesy passes that allow them to enter the Security Council visiting room and to deliver anti-Qaddafi statements in the halls of the United Nations.
Kusa wrote that Libya decided to appoint D'Escoto as Qaddafi's U.N. envoy after the United States refused to provide a visa to his favored candidate, the former Libyan foreign minister and General Assembly President Dr. Ali Abdussalam Treki. But some U.N. officials suggested the Treki may not have been reluctant to travel to New York to take up the post.
The appointment of a foreign national as a country's U.N. envoy, while highly unusual, is not unprecedented. Palau, a tiny island in the South Pacific, appointed a New York lawyer, Stuart Beck, as its top man at the United Nations.
A former Maryknoll priest, D'Escoto served as the Sandinista's foreign minister during the country's civil war against the U.S.-backed Contras. He has been an outspoken critic of American foreign policy ever since, once describing President Ronald Reagan as "the butcher of my people."
D'Escoto served as the U.N. General Assembly President from September 16, 2008 to September, 2009. D'Escoto initially praised President Obama as representing a sharp break from America's past politial leaders. But he frequently used his position in the U.N. to attack American and Israeli policies in the Middle East.
D'Escoto has scheduled a press conference at U.N. headquarters for tomorrow morning, providing a first test of his ability to represent Qaddafi.
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Longtime Washington Post correspondent Colum Lynch reports on all things United Nations for Turtle Bay.