‘African King of Kings’ Makes Waves in New York, Offers to Move U.N. to Libya

By Patrick Goodenough | September 24, 2009 | 4:49 AM EDT

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi shows a torn copy of the U.N. Charter during his speech at the U.N. on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009. (AP Photo)

(Editor’s note: Although he was scheduled to attend and address Thursday’s Security Council summit on nonproliferation, Gaddafi did not appear and a Libyan envoy read out a statement instead.)

– It took 40 years in power before Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi decided to address the U.N. General Assembly, and he made up for it on Wednesday, delivering a seemingly interminable address in which he tore up the U.N. Charter and laid out his vision for revolutionizing the Security Council.

The speech, running some 80 minutes longer than the usual 15 minute time limit, threw out the day’s carefully-crafted schedule, but there appeared to be nothing the General Assembly president, Libya’s Ali Triki, could or would do to stop it.
Triki, who served as Gaddafi’s foreign minister in the late 1970s, had earlier introduced him as “king of kings of Africa” – an epithet bestowed on him by a group of African traditional leaders when Gaddafi was elected head of the African Union (A.U.) early this year.
As A.U. head, Gaddafi had a prime speaking slot, immediately after President Obama, who left before the Libyan began his address. Also not in the chamber to hear Gaddafi’s speech were Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Susan Rice, who vacated the U.S. delegation seats. Lower-level diplomats took their places.
Early on in his speech, Gaddafi called the recently-departed Obama “my son,” and later described him as “a young African Kenyan.”
“Can you guarantee after Obama how America will be governed?” he asked. “We are content and happy if Obama can stay forever as the president of the United States of America.”
The Libyan’s lengthy address covered numerous bases ranging from calling for the Taliban to be allowed to establish an emirate if it wished, to demands that former colonial powers compensate Africans to the tune of $7.77 trillion and that investigations be opened into the JFK and Martin Luther King assassinations.
He suggested the U.N. headquarters move away from the U.S. Having been in the western hemisphere for more than half a century it should now be moved to the “middle of the globe or the eastern part of the globe.”
“All of you came across the Atlantic Ocean, the Asian continent, the African continent to reach this place. Why? Is this Jerusalem? Is this the Vatican? Is this Mecca? All of you are tired, suffering from jet lag …”
Gaddafi said the General Assembly should vote on the proposal: if it decides to move the U.N. to the “middle part” of the globe, Libya could host it; if it chooses to go to the east, Beijing or New Delhi could do so.
“You will thank me for this proposal, for eliminating the suffering and the trouble of flying for over 20 hours to come to this place.”

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi tosses a book toward General Assembly president Ali Triki, above right, during his lengthy address at the U.N. on Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2009. (AP Photo)

Gaddafi also spoke at length about the Security Council – which he dubbed “the Terror Council” – saying it was responsible for the conflict in the world since the end of World War II. Rather than reform it by adding other countries it should be remade, he said, with seats being designated for multinational organizations like the A.U., Non-Aligned Movement, Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Arab League.
Gaddafi also tried to rip apart a copy of the U.N. Charter, saying the existence of the Security Council violated the charter’s provision about the equality of all member states.
When British Prime Minister Gordon Brown spoke later in the day – two hours behind schedule thanks to Gaddafi – he declared, “I stand here to reaffirm the United Nations charter, not to tear it up. I call on every nation here to support its universal principles.”

How long he will get to speak will be up to the chairman – Barack Obama.
Gaddafi’s presence in New York is difficult for Brown, who has taken flak at home and in the U.S. for Britain’s decision last month to release the Libyan convicted in the Lockerbie bombing despite U.S. appeals not to do so. Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi, reportedly dying of cancer, returned home to a hero’s welcome.
Obama’s series of bilateral meetings in New York this week does not include one with Brown, prompting British media to report that he was being snubbed over the Lockerbie row. A Downing Street Wednesday said the suggestion was “without foundation.”
When Brown and Obama do sit down together for a special Security Council summit on Thursday neither will be able to avoid Gaddafi. Libya is one of 10 non-permanent council members, and as the meeting on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation is being held at a head of state and head of government level, he is expected to attend.
How long he gets to speak this time will be up to the chairman – Barack Obama.
Patrick Goodenough
Patrick Goodenough
Spencer Journalism Fellow