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UPDATE: Saudi Arabia declines UN Security Council seat, demands reforms

Fri, 18th Oct 2013 11:39

RIYADH (Alliance News) - Saudi Arabia on Friday rejected a seat on the UN Security Council to protest what it said was a lack of international efforts to end world conflicts.

"The kingdom believes that double standards in the Security Council prevent it from performing its duties and assuming its responsibilities towards keeping peace and security in the world," the Saudi Foreign Ministry said.

It said it would not take the seat until "reforms were introduced to allow the Security Council to effectively perform its duties."

The oil-rich kingdom, which was elected Thursday as a non-permanent member to replace Pakistan in representing the Asia-Pacific region, said the Security Council "allowed the Syrian regime to kill its people and burn them using chemical weapons."

The five permanent, veto-wielding members of the 15-nation council had been deadlocked for months on any action over Syria and its 31-month civil war as Russia blocked statements even on humanitarian issues.

But on September 27, it unanimously approved a resolution ordering the destruction of Syria's chemical weapons.

Saudi Arabia has backed the rebels fighting to oust the regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

The Security Council seat would have been the first time Saudi Arabia would have had a place on the United Nations' highest decision-making body.

Riyadh, a major power player in the Muslim world, also on Friday criticized the council on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

"The continuation of the Palestinian issue without a just and lasting solution for 65 years ... is clear evidence of the Security Council's inability to perform its duties and carry out its responsibilities," it said.

Saudi Arabia in addition said the Security Council had failed to make the Middle East free of all weapons of mass destruction "because of its inability to put nuclear programmes of all countries in the region, without exception, under surveillance and inspection" and had failed to prevent countries from pursuing nuclear weapons.

Saudi Arabia and other Arab states have been calling to make the Middle East a nuclear weapons-free zone and was referring to both Iran, Saudi Arabia's main competitor for influence in the region, and Israel.

Iran repeatedly has denied it is seeking nuclear weapons.

Israel is the only country in the region believed to have a nuclear arsenal although it neither confirms nor denies this as a matter of policy.

After Thursday's vote at the UN in New York, Saudi Arabia was criticized for its human rights record.

UN Watch, a non-governmental organization monitoring the UN, said Saudi Arabia has a "dismal human rights record," including discrimination against women and shielding Sudan from prosecution for genocide in Darfur.

Copyright dpa

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