Gaddafi blasts big powers in first U.N. speech

By Louis Charbonneau and Haitham Haddadin

UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - Muammar Gaddafi, in his first address to the United Nations in 40 years as Libya's autocratic ruler, on Wednesday accused major powers on the Security Council of betraying the principles of the U.N. charter.

"The preamble (of the charter) says all nations are equal whether they are small or big," Gaddafi said in a long, rambling speech during which he chastised his audience for falling asleep.

After reading from a copy of the U.N. charter, Gaddafi condemned the veto power held by five permanent of the council, at one point referring to it as the "terror council." Speaking through an interpreter, he said: "The veto is against the charter, we do not accept it and we do not acknowledge it."

Clad in a copper-coloured robe with an emblem of Africa pinned over his chest, the Libyan leader dropped his paperback copy of the charter on the podium several times before tossing it over his shoulder.

Gaddafi, who touched on subjects ranging from the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy, the U.S. invasion of Grenada and free medicine for the world's children, spoke for 1 hour and 35 minutes.

It was not a record-breaker -- in 1960 Cuba's Fidel Castro blasted U.S. imperialism for about four hours -- but it threw out the U.N.'s scheduling on a day when many leaders were down to speak.


A number of delegates left the hall and at one point the Libyan leader complained about the tired appearance of the audience. "Please can I have your attention," he said. "All of you are tired, having jet lag. ... You are tired. All of you are asleep."

Many countries have been upset by Libya's warm public reception for a Libyan official convicted of involvement in the 1988 Lockerbie bombing attack who was released by Scotland last month on health grounds.

That was about the only issue Gaddafi did not touch on in his speech.

Gaddafi's presence prompted some protests and wide interest in New York. He tried unsuccessful to get permission to pitch a Bedouin tent he likes to stay in Central Park and in two other sites near New York City.

The United States, Britain, France, Russia and China are permanent veto-wielding members of the Security Council, the most powerful body within the United Nations. Libya has a temporary council seat and will be on the 15-nation panel until the end of this year.

"Veto power should be annulled," Gaddafi said.

"The Security Council did not provide us with security but with terror and sanctions," he told leaders gathered for the opening day of the 192-nation General Assembly.


Gaddafi, who spoke just after U.S. President Barack Obama, said the fact that "65 wars" have broken out since the U.N. was established more than 60 years ago proved its founding principles had been betrayed.

"The election of Obama is the beginning of change," he said and applauded Obama's stated commitment to nuclear disarmament. Other U.S. presidents, he said, had terrorizing his region.

The United States began lifting its sanctions and normalizing relations with Tripoli after Gaddafi said he was abandoning Libya's nuclear, chemical and biological weapons programs in December 2003.

Although he dismissed the Security Council as illegitimate, Gaddafi, who currently chairs the African Union, reiterated Africa's call for a permanent council seat.

He also said that Africa deserved compensation totalling $7.77 trillion (4.72 trillion pounds) from its past colonial masters for damages sustained during the colonial period.

(Editing by David Storey)