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UN nominee calls Syria inaction a 'disgrace'

Samantha Power, US President Barack Obama's nominee for ambassador to UN, also vowed to defend Israel's legitimacy.

Last Modified: 17 Jul 2013 19:04
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Samantha Power testified before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday [AFP]

A US ambassador nominee to the United Nations has called the UN Security Council's response to Syria's civil war a "disgrace" at her confirmation hearing.

Samantha Power, who was President Barack Obama's nominee for the position made the statement before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Wednesday.

We see the failure of the UN Security Council to respond to the slaughter in Syria - a disgrace that history will judge harshly

Samantha Power, US UN ambassador nominee

"We see the failure of the UN Security Council to respond to the slaughter in Syria - a disgrace that history will judge harshly," Power said in testimony that also praised the New York-based world body.

Under questioning from senators, she called Syria one of the worst "cases of mass brutality" that she has ever seen.

Power, 42, a former White House national security staffer and journalist won a Pulitzer Prize for her study of US failures to prevent genocide and is seen as an advocate of an activist foreign policy.

She also said she sees at the United Nations "unacceptable bias and attacks against the State of Israel," and "the absurdity" of Iran serving as chair of the UN Conference on disarmament.

"Israel’s legitimacy should be beyond dispute, and its security must be beyond doubt. Just as I have done the last four years as President Obama’s UN adviser at the White House, I will stand up for Israel and work tirelessly to defend it," she said.

Power had been criticised by some conservatives for seeming to suggest in a 2002 interview with an academic that the US Army might be needed to police the Middle East conflict if either Israel or the Palestinians move toward genocide.

Al Jazeera's diplomatic editor James Bays, reporting from the United Nations headquarters in New York, said that Powers' is likely to secure the job.

She has experience as a journalist, and has witnessed the Bosnian war, after which she wrote the book A Problem from Hell: America and the Age of Genocide in which she chronicles the US failure to stop genocide in a series of cases during the 20th century.

"The UN Security Council had sent peacekeepers to Bosnia to protect civilians. But in the town of Srebrenica, those Bosnians who sought the protection of the blue helmets were handed over to those who wished them harm," Powers told the sitting.

"More than 8,000 Muslim men and boys were executed in cold blood, as the peacekeepers stood idly by," she said.

Support for Power

"I am confident that the same passion that she has for human rights she has for this country," said Senator Saxby Chambliss of Georgia, one of two Republican senators who introduced Power, who went to high school in Atlanta in Chambliss' home state.

Al Jazeera's James Bays reports from Washington DC

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, the top Republican on the committee, said before the hearing that he expected Power to be well-received, but urged her to pursue reforms at the United Nations.

"All too often the UN acts as a place where bad actors deflect criticism," he said.

Separately, Republican Senator Marco Rubio of Florida introduced legislation shortly before the hearing that would reduce US funding to the United Nations unless there are major changes at the world body.

Among other things, Rubio's bill would withhold US contributions to any UN entity that grants full membership to the Palestinian Authority in the absence of a negotiated peace settlement with Israel.

It would also make US contributions to the United Nations voluntary and limit contributions to 22 percent of the UN budget, and seek zero growth in the UN regular budget.

Power's discretion and diplomatic skills were called into question in 2008 when she labeled Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, then running against Obama for the Democratic nomination, "monster".

The remark prompted Power's resignation from Obama's campaign team, but she is now strongly backed by Democrats.

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Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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