* US welcomes outcome of vote, vows to be “friend” of Libya
* Venezuela, other Latin American nations oppose the move
* UN Security Council to ease Libya sanctions later Friday (Adds U.S. reaction, paragraphs 5-6)
By Louis Charbonneau
UNITED NATIONS, Sept 16 (Reuters) - The U.N. General Assembly on Friday approved a Libyan request to accredit envoys of the country’s interim government as Tripoli’s sole representatives at the world body, effectively recognizing the National Transitional Council.
The 193-nation assembly approved the request with 114 votes in favor, 17 against and 15 abstentions. U.N. officials have said that Libyan U.N. Ambassador Abdurrahman Shalgham is expected to retain the post as Tripoli’s top diplomat at the United Nations.
The defection of Shalgham’s deputy, Ibrahim Dabbashi, to the rebels in February 2011 inspired dozens of Libyan diplomats worldwide to denounce Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s bloody crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators.
Shalgham, a former foreign minister who was considered to be close to Gaddafi, eventually followed Dabbashi’s lead and joined the rebel cause, denouncing Gaddafi in an impassioned speech in which he compared Libya’s long-time leader to Germany’s Hitler and Cambodian despot Pol Pot.
Highlighting how things have changed since the 1980s, when President Ronald Reagan dubbed Gaddafi the “mad dog of the Middle East,” U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice congratulated Libya and vowed that Tripoli would have “a friend and partner in the United States.”
“The Libyan people still have much more work to do, but they also have the full knowledge that the international community, including the United States, stands ready to help their transition towards democracy, prosperity, and the rule of law,” she said in a statement.
Several Latin American countries, however, sharply criticized the decision to recognize delegates of the transitional Libyan government.
Venezuela’s U.N. Ambassador Jorge Valero told the General Assembly his country rejected the “illegitimate transitory authority imposed by foreign intervention” and any attempt to transform Libya into a “protectorate” of NATO or the Security Council.
Valero also blamed NATO and the Security Council for failing to push for a ceasefire rather than a victory of the rebels over Gaddafi, some of whose forces continue to oppose the fighters of the new government in isolated areas around the oil-producing OPEC member.
Delegates from Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua echoed Valero’s remarks.
Angola, speaking on behalf of southern African countries, called for a delay of the vote to accredit Libya, but that motion was heavily defeated.
Separately, the U.N. Security Council is expected to approve a resolution later on Friday that would ease some of the sanctions imposed on Libya in February and March, according to a text obtained by Reuters.
If approved, the draft would lift all sanctions against the Libyan National Oil Corporation and Zueitina Oil Company in an attempt to help get the Libyan economy running.
It would also partly ease sanctions against the central bank and other Libyan institutions, though special approval by the Security Council’s Libya sanctions committee would still be needed to unfreeze their seized assets.
The arms embargo would remain in place, but Libya’s interim government and the United Nations would be allowed to import weapons to maintain security.
The resolution would also establish a U.N. mission in Libya to assist the government with the post-conflict transition, though the draft does not call for the deployment of U.N. peacekeepers or police.