Libya: Zuma to discuss roadmap for peace
Tripoli – South African President Jacob will discuss the implementation of the AU "roadmap" for peace, the Libyan television said on Monday, as rebels insisted that the resolution to the Libyan crisis was the removal of strongman Muammar Gaddafi.
Zuma arrived in Tripoli on Monday for talks on ending the Libyan conflict as Nato chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said Muammar Gaddafi’s "reign of terror" was near its end.
Zuma was greeted at the airport by Gaddafi’s prime minister, Baghdadi al-Mahmudi, shortly after Libyan state media said Nato-led air strikes on the town of Zliten, west of the rebel-held city of Misrata, killed 11 people.
The South African presidency said Zuma is seeking an immediate ceasefire, to boost humanitarian aid and bring about the reforms needed to eliminate the cause of the conflict which erupted amid anti-regime protests in mid-February.
But it rejected as "misleading" reports the talks would focus on an exit strategy for Gaddafi, saying the visit is part of African Union efforts to end the conflict between his forces and rebels fighting to oust him.
State news agency JANA said that Nato-led planes had hit "civilian and military sites in the Wadi Kaam area of Zliten." "There were 11 people martyred and a number of wounded," the news agency said.
At a meeting of Nato's parliamentary assembly in Bulgaria, the Nato chief insisted: "Gaddafi’s reign of terror is coming to an end.
"He is increasingly isolated at home and abroad. Even those closest to him are departing, defecting or deserting. ... It is time for Gaddafi to go as well," Rasmussen said.
The Nato chief was upbeat about the results of Nato's military intervention to enforce a UN-backed no-fly zone over the north African country.
"Our operation in Libya, Operation Unified Protector, is achieving its objectives and we are preventing Gaddafi from achieving his," Rasmussen said.
"In just two months we have made significant progress. We have seriously degraded Gaddafi’s ability to kill his own people."
In the rebels' eastern stronghold of Benghazi, Mustafa Abdul Jalil, who heads their provisional government, welcomed a call by G8 world powers for Gaddafi to stand down.
"The position taken by the G8 is reflective of the will of the international community as well as the demands and aspirations of the Libyan people," Jalil said.
G8 leaders from Britain, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia and the United States called on Friday for Gaddafi to step down after more than 40 years in the face of pro-democracy protests turned full-fledged armed revolt.
Russia at the same time finally joined explicit calls for Gaddafi to go.
The Libyan regime responded by saying any initiative to resolve the crisis would have to go through the African Union.
"The G8 is an economic summit. We are not concerned by its decisions," said Tripoli's deputy foreign minister, Khaled Kaaim.
"We are an African country. Any initiative outside the AU framework will be rejected," he said, confirming Zuma's visit on Monday.
Brutality of crackdowns
The rebels reiterated they would accept no settlement that did not entail Gaddafi’s departure from power.
"We witness how Colonel Gaddafi presents initiatives to fool the world and create the illusion that he is in search of peace," Abdul Jalil said.
"It is with this in mind that we would like to reconfirm that the basis of any consideration for the resolution of the Libyan crisis is the removal of the main reason for this crisis, Colonel Gaddafi."
In a statement on the eve of the visit, Zuma's ruling African National Congress slammed the Nato bombing of Libya.
"We also join the continent and all peace loving people of the world in condemning the continuing aerial bombardments of Libya by Western forces," it said after a two-day meeting of its executive council.
In Geneva, the UN rights chief Navi Pillay condemned the brutality of crackdowns on protesters in Libya and Syria, saying the actions were shocking in their disregard for human rights.
"The brutality and magnitude of measures taken by the governments in Libya and now Syria have been particularly shocking in their outright disregard for basic human rights," Pillay told the UN Human Rights Council.
Two French lawyers said they planned to initiate legal proceedings against French President Nicolas Sarkozy on Monday for crimes against humanity over the Nato-led military campaign in Libya.
A Libyan justice ministry official Ibrahim Boukhzam told reporters in Tripoli that Jacques Verges and Roland Dumas had offered to represent families he said were victims of the Nato bombing campaign.
In its latest operational update, Nato said on Monday it struck command and control nodes in Tripoli and the eastern oil town of Brega, and ammunition storage facilities in Gaddafi's hometown of Sirte and Misrata.