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Saudi Arabia turns down seat on UN Security Council

Saudi Arabia has refused to take its seat as a member of the UN Security Council on the grounds the body is unable to end wars and resolve conflicts. It was chosen to be one of five new non-permanent members on Thursday.

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Saudis refuse Security council seat

Saudi Arabia's Foreign Ministry issued a statement on Friday announcing it had turned down membership of the UN Security Council a day after it was elected as a new non-permanent member.

The ministry cited the body's "double standards" as justification for the move.

"The kingdom sees that the method and work mechanism and the double standards in the Security Council prevent it from properly shouldering its responsibilities towards world peace," the statement carried by Saudi state news agency SPA said.

It pointed specifically to the civil war in Syria, in which it is a fervent supporter of rebel forces, and the ongoing Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

"Failing to find a solution to the Palestinian cause for 65 years," it said, has led to "numerous wars that have threatened world peace."

Moreover, "allowing the regime in Syria to kill its own people with chemical weapons ... without confronting it or imposing any deterrent sanctions ... is a proof of the inability of the Security Council to carry out its duties and assume its responsibilities."

The ministry also criticized the council's failure to rid the Middle East of weapons of mass destruction, namely nuclear weapons - in reference to Iran and Israel.

It said reforms needed to be introduced before it would consider taking its seat, although did not specify changes it felt were necessary.

New members raise concerns

The oil-rich country was handed a place on the 15-member council for the first time on Thursday by the UN General Assembly alongside Nigeria, Chad, Chile and Lithuania. All of the candidates were unopposed.

The General Assembly appoints five new non-permanent members annually to hold a seat for a two-year period. They join the council's five permanent members - the United States, China, Russia, Britain and France.

Saudi Arabia was to take over from Pakistan as a representative for the Asia-Pacific region, while Chile was elected from the Latin American region to replace Guatemala.

Chad and Nigeria are to replace Morocco and Togo as African representatives on the body. Meanwhile, Lithuania takes the East European seat, which is currently held by Azerbaijan.

Despite the lack of a contest, there was disapproval from human rights groups over the appointment of Saudi Arabia as well as Chad and Nigeria.

"The prestige of a seat at the world's foremost diplomatic table should prompt the new members to get their house in order," Human Rights Watch's UN director Philippe Bolopion said Thursday.

ccp/hc (AFP, Reuters)

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