African leaders urge political solution for Libya

By benim
In IndepthAfrica
May 25th, 2011

African leaders on Wednesday urged a political solution to the long-running Libyan conflict as they opened talks, in the Ethiopian capital, on the troubled north African state.

“I am convinced that only a political solution can lead to a lasting peace and satisfy the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people,” said Jean Ping, head of the AU Commission, the pan-African bloc’s executive body.

“The situation in Libya remains a serious concern for us, for the future of Libya itself as well as for regional countries,” Ping added.

“Unfortunately the current situation on the ground and the lack of coordination of international efforts do not favour the search for a solution.”

Members of the African Union’s ad hoc panel on Libya held discussions ahead of a special summit dedicated to the Libyan crisis later Wednesday.

The AU is opposed to the international military action against Moamer Kadhafi’s regime and last month proposed a ceasefire plan, which was rejected by the Libyan rebels who insisted on Kadhafi’s departure.

Kadhafi himself however readily accepted the plan. The AU also proposed a transition period for negotiations to organise elections.

But the AU’s proposals for resolving Libya’s months-long crisis, including a mediation team made up of African heads of state, have largely been ignored most recently even by South Africa.

Before the talks even opened in Addis Ababa, the office of South African President Jacob Zuma said he would visit Tripoli next week.

“President Zuma will stop over in Tripoli for a discussion with Libyan leader Colonel Moamer Kadhafi, on May 30,” the presidency said in a statement.

Presidency sources said the talks would focus on Kadhafi’s “exit strategy”.

Libyan rebels have not warmed to the AU’s overtures, wary of the ties between the continental body and Kadhafi who is one of the bloc’s main financiers.

However Ping insisted that “the roadmap proposed by the AU has all the elements for a solution. We need to be given the opportunity to effect it.”

Libya has been mired in a bloody conflict pitting Kadhafi’s forces against opposition rebels since the eruption of massive anti-government protests in mid-February.

An international coalition intervened on March 19, launching air raids and missile strikes under a UN mandate aimed at protecting civilians from Kadhafi’s forces. NATO took command of the air campaign on March 31.

The alliance this week intensified bombardments against the Libyan regime, seeking to deliver a decisive blow to Kadhafi’s government.

The AU ad hoc panel on Libya is headed by Mauritanian President Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz and comprises the leaders of Uganda, Mali, Congo and South Africa.

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