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Guterres defends ex-Palestinian PM as pick for UN Libya envoy

Toru Yamanaka, AFP | Former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad in Tokyo on February 14, 2013

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres defended former Palestinian prime minister Salam Fayyad on Monday as the “right person” to represent the world body in Libya after the United States raised objections to his choice.

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"I deeply regret this opposition and I do not see any reason for it," Guterres said at the annual World Government Summit in Dubai.

“I believe he is the right person for the right job at the right moment... And I think it is a loss for the Libyan peace process and for the Libyan people that I am not able to appoint him,” he added.

Guterres informed the UN Security Council on Wednesday of his intention to appoint Fayyad as a replacement for German Martin Kobler to conflict-torn Libya.

But the US ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, objected to the appointment in a statement on Saturday.

“The United States was disappointed to see a letter indicating the intention to appoint the former Palestinian Authority prime minister to lead the UN Mission in Libya,” she said. “For too long the UN has been unfairly biased in favour of the Palestinian Authority to the detriment of our allies in Israel.”

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu immediately welcomed the US’s position on Fayyad, stating that the “time has come for positions and appointments to be made to the Israeli side as well”.

Israeli media has meanwhile reported that the Jewish state could accept Fayyad's appointment if Tzipi Livni, a former Israeli foreign minister, were offered the position of UN deputy secretary general.

The head of the United Nations requires the unanimous support of all 15 Security Council members for appointments of special representatives to conflict areas. The United States wields significant influence as one of the five permanent members of the Council.

Libya has been in turmoil since a 2011 revolution overthrew and killed longtime dictator Muammar Gaddafi.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP, REUTERS)

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