UNITED NATIONS, Dec. 20, 1989 (UPI) - The United States told the U.N. Security Council Wednesday it had exercised its right of self-defense by sending troops to Panama to oust Gen. Manuel Antonio Noriega and protect the Panama Canal.
The U.N. legal office did not rule on the question of who should be seated as the official representative from Panama during the Security Council deliberations.
Both Noriega and the U.S.-backed government of Guillermo Endara have named representatives to the world body. Independent observers said Endara won May's presidential election, which pro-Noriega election officials annulled.
U.S. Ambassador Thomas Pickering told the Security Council that Article 51 of the U.N. Charter sanctioned the U.S. right to self-defense because of Noriega's violations of the Panama Canal Treaty and democracy in that country.
''U.S. forces have exercised their inherent right of self-defense under international law,'' Pickering said.
Article 51 provides a U.N. member state an ''inherent right of individual or collective self-defense'' until the Security Council takes measures to restore security and peace. It says the member state should immediately inform the council of its self-defense action.
Pickering said the military action aimed also to protect the integrity of the Panama Canal, to uphold democracy in Panama and to fight drug traffickers.
President Bush's decision to send 11,000 American troops to Panama was a last recourse, he said, explaining that for two years Noriega rejected attempts to mediate a peaceful resolution of bilateral frictions.
Pickering accused the Noriega regime of illegally detaining 400 Americans and violating the Panama Canal Treaty over 300 times in two years. He said Panama, under Noriega's ''ruthless cabal,'' had become a haven for drug traffickers and a center for money laundering and transshipment of cocaine.
''As a result of last night's action, this situation has been reversed,'' Pickering said, promising that U.S. troops would withdraw quickly when their mission in Panama has been fulfilled.
The Security Council's 15 member-states were summoned for urgent consultations Wednesday morning, hours after U.S. troops landed in Panama City and after Nicaragua requested an immediate open meeting of the council.
Canada and Britain voiced support for the United States, while the Soviet Union and Nicaragua strongly condemned the military action. France and China midly deplored the intervention.
The Security Council president, Colombian Ambassador Enrique Penalosa, said the U.N. body would resume debate on the U.S. military action Thursday.
Nicaragua's Ambassador Alejandro Serrano Caldera accused the United States of violating scores of international and regional treaties and the Charter of the Organization of American States, which bar interference in a state's internal affairs.
''No explanation can justify this invasion,'' Serrano Caldera said, pointing out that it was the second time in six years the United States has invaded a Latin American nation. U.S. forces invaded the island of Grenada in 1983.
Serrano Caldera, acting under orders from President Daniel Ortega, requested the urgent meeting on the ground that the ''U.S. aggression against Panama is an aggression against all Latin America.''
Serrano Caldera said in a letter that the council should act ''to defend the basic principle of civilized relations between nations and states.''
Most U.N. permanent representatives from Western countries declined to comment on the U.S. military action, citing a lack of information.
Soviet Ambassador Aleksandr Belonogov said the U.S. claim of self-defense was ''unsubstantiated.''
''The United States must immediately halt its intervention and withdraw its troops unconditionally,'' he said.
China's Ambassador Li Luye also demanded the unconditional withdrawal of the U.S. troops and blamed Washington for ''gravely violating'' the U.N. Charter.