African Union panel meets on Libya mediation effort

AFP , Sunday 26 Jun 2011

The African Union panel on Libya met Sunday in Pretoria on mediation efforts to end the four-month war, after South African President Jacob Zuma's visit to Tripoli last month failed to reach a deal

Mourners carry the coffin of a child who, according to the Libyan government, was killed in NATO air strikes, during funeral processions in Surman, 70 km (43 miles) west of Tripoli (Photo: Reuters)

The leaders of Mauritania, Uganda and Mali as well as Congo-Brazzaville's foreign minister met with Zuma as Libyan rebels said they expect to receive an offer from Muamer Gaddafi "very soon" that could end the four-month war.

None of the leaders spoke as they entered the presidential guesthouse in Pretoria, pausing only for photographs before their closed-door discussions. Zuma's spokesman Zizi Kodwa said they wanted to a find a peaceful solution to the crisis.

"We believe the only way to bring about a peaceful resolution to the current crisis is through a political dialogue. We believe in an African solution to an African problem," he told reporters. "This is part of the effort which is on a continuing basis to find a peaceful resolution."

Zuma will brief the panel about his meeting with Gaddafi in Tripoli, when he failed to close the gap between the Libyan leader and rebels who are insisting that he step down before agreeing to any deal, Kodwa said.

The South African foreign ministry said in a statement the leaders would review efforts to secure a ceasefire, to provide humanitarian relief, to protect foreign nationals and to bring about reforms "necessary for the elimination of the causes of the current crisis".

Mauritania's President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz, who heads the AU panel, told AFP on June 6 that Gaddafi "can no longer lead Libya," and that "his departure has become necessary."

Many AU leaders have publicly criticised NATO's assault on Gaddafi's regime, including Zuma, who earlier this month accused the alliance of abusing the United Nations resolution that justified its bombing.

He said that by pursuing regime change NATO had strayed far outside the resolution's civilian protection focus.

Zuma's government has also accused Tripoli of a "heinous violation of human rights against (Gaddafi's) own people" and South Africa, which currently holds a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council, did vote in favour of a no-fly zone in Libyan airspace.

The meeting includes Presidents Amadou Toumani Toure of Mali and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda, as well as Congo foreign minister Basile Ikouebe.
They are to prepare a report to deliver to a full summit of the African Union, of which Libya is a member, in Equatorial Guinea, which opens Thursday, Kodwa said.

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