The United Nations Security Council has condemned the crackdown on protesters by Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's regime, and demanded an "immediate" end to the violence which is believed to have left hundreds of people dead in the North African country.
In a statement agreed February 22 by all 15 of the Security Council's members, the Security Council urged steps to address the legitimate demands of the Libyan people.
It called on the Libyan government to meet responsibilities to protect Libyans, to act with restraint, and to respect human rights and international humanitarian law.
In its non-binding statement, the Security Council, also called for international human rights monitors and humanitarian agencies to have immediate access in Libya to provide aid and investigate abuses.
Lynn Pascoe, the UN Political Affairs head, briefed the council on the situation in Libya. He said that the violent response of the authorities towards protesters had raised serious concerns about a gross violation of human rights.
"We have felt very strongly and we have been pressing all along that this must stop,” Pascoe said. “Clearly, the idea of attacks on your own civilian population is totally unacceptable and is an issue which raises real questions [in regard to] international humanitarian law."
Qaddafi has vowed to remain in power despite growing popular protests against his repressive four-decade rule.
Experts say the Security Council's strong, unanimous condemnation of the Libyan regime’s actions was a bit of a surprise because of the traditional reluctance of Security Council powers China and Russia to use the council as a tool to condemn the actions of authorities within sovereign states.
The request by Libya's deputy UN ambassador, Ibrahim Dabbashi, for the Security Council to impose a "no-fly" zone over Libya to prevent operations by Libyan air forces, was not addressed in the council's statement.
'Not Strong Enough'
Dabbashi, who on February 21 denounced Qaddafi and said Libya's UN mission had broken with the regime over the violence, said the Security Council statement was "not strong enough."
He again called on Qaddafi's forces to halt attacks on anti-regime protesters.
In another development related to the unrest, Libya is expected to face a major challenge next week to its seat on the Geneva-based UN Human Rights Council.
An international coalition of 70 rights groups is urging the United States and the European Union to suspend Libya from its membership in the Human Rights Council.
In a letter to the White House and the EU, the coalition says the atrocities reportedly committed by Qaddafi's regime are "particularly odious" and amount to "crimes against humanity."
The coalition includes the U.S.-based UN Watch, the National Endowment for Democracy and Physicians for Human Rights, as well as 67 NGOs from Russia, India, South Africa, Germany, Pakistan, Britain, and elsewhere.