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UN presses Libyan rebels over male-dominated government

UN officials and diplomats say the United Nations is pressing Libya's National Transitional Government(NTC)for assigning top posts for women in a male-dominated government

AFP , Tuesday 13 Sep 2011
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The United Nations is pressing Libya's rebel government to get more women into top jobs and give more weight to sex equality in the new constitution, UN officials and diplomats said.

There is only one woman among the 13 known members of the government-in-waiting which is recognized by more than 80 countries and is on the verge of setting up its base in Tripoli as it hunts Moamer Kadhafi.

The main UN pointman on Libya, Ian Martin, said he has highlighted UN concerns to the national transitional council while several countries have raised concerns over early versions of a new post-Kadhafi constitution.

The head of the UN Women agency, Michelle Bachelet, the Chilean former president, has complained to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon about Libya, diplomats said.

The weight of women's hopes for the new Libyan government so far relies on Salwa Fawzi al-Degheli, an academic from the rebel capital of Benghazi.

The transitional council's website says Deghali is in charge of legal affairs and heads the legal advisory committee. It adds: "She also represents women."

There was also one woman on the council's executive board, Hania al-Gmati, in charge of social welfare. The board was fired in August however after the assassination of a top rebel general.

Speaking after a Security Council meeting on Libya on Friday, Martin, a special advisor to UN leader Ban Ki-moon, said he had raised the lack of women with the male-dominated rebel government during a trip to Benghazi last week.

"There is only one woman member of the national transitional council at the moment and I hope that when it expands there will be additional representation of women," Martin said.

"We also met in Tripoli with a group of women who I can assure you are very determined to assert their role in this transition. The United Nations will certainly be supporting them in their efforts to insist on the inclusion of women in this political process," he added.

Many countries are also following the treatment of women in Libya's new constitution, according to Norway's UN ambassador Morten Wetland.

"We have received initial sketches on the Libyan constitution. We accept that they are preliminary and provisional but they do not respect modern changes which say that more than half the country should participate in political life," Wetland told AFP.

"This is a matter that we believe needs looking into and action needs to be taken by the NTC," added the ambassador.

The UN Security Council is expected to soon pass a resolution setting out the mandate for a new UN mission in Libya, which would include political duties including advising on writing a new constitution. UN guidelines highlight the need to include women in political life.

The UN Security Council passed a resolution on peacebuilding in 2000 which also says that women should be involved. "Libya is a country coming out of conflict so women should be involved," insisted Wetland.

"Norway is a among a number of countries which has such expectations," added the ambassador who said that a group of countries were seeking to "strengthen Ian Martin's hand" in his talks with the NTC.

A western diplomat told AFP that Bachelet, head of the UN Women agency set up this year, had also been involved in behind-the-scenes efforts at the UN headquarters on Libya's male-dominated rebel government.

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