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Libya sanctions: China's new role at the UN

The United Nations Security Council unanimously set sanctions on Libya Saturday, with China deciding to join in and punish a country for its human-rights violations. Such a move could set a new direction for China, as well as help the UN cope with other crises in the Middle East.

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A swift and stern response to violence in Libya by the United Nations Security Council over the weekend could be only a warm-up exercise for the world body.

Other popular revolts against monarchs and autocrats in the Middle East are still ongoing. The UN’s governing authority will need a unity of purpose in trying to prevent more violence.

Most of all, China, as one of the five veto-wielding permanent members of the Council, must join Western powers in condemning human-rights abuses in other countries – despite such abuses in its own country.

On Saturday, fortunately, China backed a British-French measure to impose an asset freeze, travel ban, and arms embargo on the Libyan regime of Muammar Qaddafi. The 15-member Security Council passed the sanctions unanimously and quickly.

In addition, the body recommended that the International Criminal Court probe any war crimes in Libya, the first time it has referred a case to the ICC.

China seems to have little choice in backing a resolution against Mr. Qaddafi for violent treatment of his people. Hundreds of Libyans have been killed in the uprising. Some 30,000 Chinese working in Libya, mainly in the oil fields, have had to rapidly flee the violence. And many of China’s allies backed the UN action.

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