* Council calls for national dialogue in Libya
* Libya’s U.N. mission divided for and against Gaddafi (Writes through with council statement)
By Patrick Worsnip
UNITED NATIONS, Feb 22 (Reuters) - The U.N. Security Council upbraided Libya’s rulers on Tuesday for using force against peaceful demonstrators and called for those responsible for such attacks to be held to account.
A statement agreed by the 15-nation council after a day of debate on the clashes in the oil-producing North African country expressed grave concern at the situation there and the deaths of hundreds of civilians.
It called for an immediate end to violence and “steps to address the legitimate demands of the population, including through national dialogue.”
The nine-paragraph statement came hours after a defiant Muammar Gaddafi, Libya’s leader, vowed to crush a growing revolt which has seen eastern regions break free of his 41-year rule and brought deadly unrest to the capital, Tripoli.
The council met at the request of Libyan Deputy Ambassador Ibrahim Dabbashi, who along with most other staff at Libya’s U.N. mission announced on Monday they were no longer working for Gaddafi and represented only the country’s people. They called for the veteran leader’s overthrow.
But in a bizarre diplomatic twist, Libya’s U.N. Ambassador Abdurrahman Shalgham, who was away from New York on Monday and did not sign onto the anti-Gaddafi statement, arrived at the Security Council in mid-morning after discussions had started.
Shalgham, who said he backed Gaddafi but wanted an end to the violence, addressed the council and not Dabbashi.
Delegates at the closed-door session said Shalgham admitted a tragedy was unfolding in Libya and that reform was needed.
Dabbashi, speaking to reporters after the council session, praised its statement as “a good message to the regime in Libya about stopping the bloodshed against the Libyan people,” although he said it did not go far enough.
He also charged that, according to reports he had heard, army units loyal to Gaddafi had been incited by his speech to start attacking civilians in cities in western Libya.
“Certainly, the people have no arms and the genocide started in Libya,” he said, repeating a term he and other Libyan U.N. diplomats had also used on Monday. He said he hoped the reports were not true.
Gaddafi’s speech was also deplored by U.N. political chief Lynn Pascoe, who told journalists after briefing the council on Libya that “anyone who is inciting populations against themselves ... is a very dangerous thing.”
Tuesday’s statement was the first by the Security Council on the wave of unrest sweeping the Arab world that has already toppled the leaders in Tunisia and Egypt. Diplomats said the scale of the violence in Libya had prompted it to act.
The statement urged Libya’s authorities to exercise restraint, respect human rights and grant immediate access to rights monitors and aid agencies. The government should respect freedom of assembly, of expression and of the press, it added.
“The members of the Security Council stressed the importance of accountability. They underscored the the need to hold to account those responsible for attacks, including by forces under their control, on civilians,” the statement said.
Apparently reflecting reservations by China, long wary of council action that could be construed as interference in a country’s internal affairs, the statement made no mention of an investigation, which Western countries had wanted.
In brief comments to journalists, U.S. envoy Rosemary DiCarlo praised the council for speaking with “one clear and unified voice” and said she hoped the statement “will help bring an immediate end to this unacceptable situation.”
British Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said Britain and other countries would be raising Libya in the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva next week.
He also said the Security Council could return to the Libya issue. But diplomats were cautious on prospects for a request by the anti-Gaddafi Libyan diplomats for the United Nations to impose a no-fly zone over Libya.
Such a measure, seldom invoked by the council, would need a formal resolution. “I don’t think we’re in that territory yet,” one Western diplomat said. (Editing by Christopher Wilson)