Libya backs India for UNSC seat


New Delhi : India's demand for a seat in an expanded UN Security Council received strong backing from Libyan leader Muammer Al Gaddafi when Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee called on him at his desert camp near the coastal town of Sirte.

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"Col. Gaddafi reiterated that India has a right to have a permanent seat on the UN Security Council," a statement issued here by the external affairs ministry said.

According to Gaddafi, "the sky is the limit for cooperation between the two countries," it added.

During the hour-long meeting Sunday, Mukherjee handed over a letter from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh inviting Gaddafi to visit India.

"The Libyan leader said that he looked forward to visiting India," the statement said.

Mukherjee is on his first visit here since becoming foreign minister in 2006. It is also the highest-level visit in 23 years since then prime minister Indira Gandhi visited in Libya in April 1984.

Mukherjee and Gaddafi held wide-ranging discussions "in a very warm and cordial atmosphere", the statement said.

"Traditional friendship between the two countries, India's support for Libya's position and principled opposition to sanctions were recalled.

"Bilateral cooperation, particularly cooperation in the oil and petroleum sectors, as well as human resource development were discussed.

"While discussing regional issues, Mukherjee briefed the Libyan leader on developments in the South Asia Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the India-Pakistan composite dialogue process, and India-China relations, as well as the trilateral India-Russia-China dialogue.

"India's relations with Africa and greater cooperation in this regard were also discussed. Col. Gaddafi said that he would himself work towards further strengthening India-Africa partnership," the statement said.

On international issues, the discussions focused on the need for reforming the UN, including the UN Security Council structure. It was in this context that Gaddafi backed India candidature for a permanent Security Council seat.

During Mukherjee's visit, India and Libya have also signed several agreements, including one on promoting investments, and another on ramping up their cultural ties.

Mukherjee is currently on a four-nation tour that has already taken him to Cyprus. From Libya, he travels to Germany and Belgium before returning home.