Zuma to send envoy to Libya

2011-03-18 10:51

President Jacob Zuma is sending an envoy to Libya at the weekend to take part in an African Union (AU) fact-finding mission aimed at starting talks between the regime of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi and rebels who are trying to end his 42-year rule.

“South Africa supports the position of the African Union with regards to the Libyan question and will work within the ambit of the AU,” a statement from the presidency said today.

“President Zuma will be represented by the Minister of State Security Siyabonga Cwele, Deputy Minister of International Relations Ebrahim Ebrahim and security adviser Welile Nhlapo in the fact-finding mission to Libya.”

South Africa is a member of a panel appointed by the African Union to assist in the resolution of the political crisis in Libya. The panel includes Uganda, Mauritania, Mali and the Republic of Congo.

Zuma said in the National Assembly yesterday that he had personally rebuked Libyan leader Gaddafi for “shooting his people”, but declined to say whether SA backed international calls for a no-fly zone over the North African state.

“We are dealing with a situation in Libya where Gaddafi is shooting his people. I discussed it with Gaddafi and I condemned the actions he has undertaken and said it was wrong and he must stop doing it,” he said, referring to a phone conversation with the embattled Libyan leader last week.

Zuma said South Africa would co-ordinate its position on Libya with other members of the AU.

A UN Security Council resolution has imposed a no-fly zone over the country to stop Gaddafi’s attacks on rebels.

While some members of the council expressed doubts about military action, Washington argued that even stronger measures than a no-fly zone may be needed.

Gaddafi’s forces have inflicted several defeats on rebels in recent days and Libya’s deputy UN envoy, Ibrahim Dabbashi, who has turned against Gaddafi, warned yesterday that the international community had half a day to react to prevent “genocide“.

Zuma last week instructed the Treasury to begin freezing Gaddafi’s assets in South Africa in accordance with an earlier UN Security Council resolution.

Meanwhile, a South African medical and media team evacuated from Jidabia in Libya earlier this week was expected on home ground today.

The 22-member team, sent to Libya by humanitarian movement the Gift of the Givers, was expected to arrive at the OR Tambo International Airport at 11am, said team leader Imtiaz Sooliman

After six days of helping casualties at the Jibabia hospital, the group was requested to leave.

“We didn’t want to leave. We were requested to because foreigners, doctors and especially journalists were being targeted and attacked in Jidabia,” Sooliman said yesterday.

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