UNITED NATIONS - The full membership of the United Nations on Tuesday suspended Libya from the U.N. Human Rights Council in the latest international effort to isolate Muammar Qaddafi's government for its violent attacks on civilian protesters.
The U.N. General Assembly voted by consensus on the council's recommendation to suspend Libya's rights of council membership for committing "gross and systematic violations of human rights."
Jean-Victor Nkolo, spokesman for the U.N. General Assembly President, told CBS News that "Consensus" by the General Assembly means that none of the UN's 192 members expressed a formal objection, despite a few verbal concerns. The vote was on the basis of the recommendation of the Human Rights Council itself.
Nkolo continued: "It is very significant because it has not happened before. These are member states expressing themselves on another state. The suspension means that member states feel that Libya does not abide by the standards of human rights expressed in the U.N. Charter and by the Human Rights Council. It is quite a demarche."
The assembly also expressed "deep concern" about the human rights situation in Libya.
The vote does not permanently remove Libya from the council, but prevents it from participation until the General Assembly determines whether to restore the country to full status.
The resolution was sponsored by Arab and African states.
Venezuelan Ambassador Jorge Valero expressed reservations about the vote.
"A decision such as this one could only take place after a genuine investigation," he said.
The vote reflected intense diplomatic negotiations by the Obama Administration, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Geneva, and vindicated their decision to join the Human Rights Council, after a long suspension, reports CBS News foreign affairs analyst Pamela Falk.
Suspension from the Council by the General Assembly, like sanctions, will not shut Qaddafi down overnight, but it signifies that the Libyan government has been censured, in effect, by the world.
In Libya, government opponents in rebel-held Zawiya repelled an attempt by forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi to retake the city closest to the capital in six hours of fighting overnight, witnesses said Tuesday. But troops loyal to the longtime leader clamped down on a strategic mountain town as they fought to reclaim areas near Tripoli, residents said.
The rebels, who include mutinous army forces, are armed with tanks, machine guns and anti-aircraft guns. They fought back pro-Qaddafi troops in Zaqiya, 30 miles west of Tripoli, armed with the same weapons, who attacked from six directions. There was no word on casualties.
"We will not give up Zawiya at any price," said one witness. "We know it is significant strategically. They will fight to get it, but we will not give up. We managed to defeat them because our spirits are high and their spirits are zero."
Similar attempts were made by pro-Qaddafi forces Monday night to retake the cities of Misrata, Libya's third-largest city 125 miles east of Tripoli, and Zintan, 75 miles south of the Libyan capital. Rebel forces in both places repelled the attackers.
On Monday, pro-Qaddafi forces did retake control of the western border crossings with Tunisia that had fallen under opposition control, and CBS News correspondent Mandy Clark arrived as militia members scrambled to load anti-aircraft guns after government fighter jets bombed an ammunition depot in the rebel-held east. The Libyan Defense Ministry denied the bombing.
Government loyalists had recaptured the town of Gharyan in the Nafusa mountain range overlooking Tripoli and had set up checkpoints along the road connecting it and Zintan, the resident said, speaking on condition of anonymity for fear of reprisals.
Protesters had control of the area until Friday, when a battalion appeared in the middle of the night, deploying tanks and troops.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned Tuesday that Libya is at risk of collapsing into a "protracted civil war" amid increasingly violent clashes between the two sides.