Govt explains turnaround on Libya

2011-09-21 14:06
Cape Town - The South African government had decided to give the National Transitional Council (NTC) in Libya "the benefit of the doubt", Deputy International Relations and Co-operation Minister Marius Fransman said on Wednesday.

He was briefing the media in Cape Town on the decision, taken on Tuesday, to recognise the NTC as representative of the Libyan people.

Tuesday's announcement was a reversal of South Africa's previous position on the Libyan rebel movement. Exactly a month ago, International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said the country would not recognise a rebel government.

"As far as we are concerned, if this government falls, there is no government," she said at the time.

Assurances in letter to AU

Fransman told journalists on Wednesday the decision to change this stance had been prompted by a letter, sent by the NTC to the AU, as well as a meeting with the organisation's chairperson.

The letter had included NTC assurances that it would, among other things, "give priority to national unity and to bring together all Libyan stakeholders, without any exception, to rebuild the country".

The AU had therefore taken a decision to recognise the NTC.

"Accordingly, the SA government recognises the NTC as representative of the Libyan people as they form an all-inclusive transitional government that will occupy the Libyan seat at the AU," Fransman said.

Inclusive governance

Asked to spell out what this meant, Fransman responded: "What we are saying now, is if the country [Libya] says yes, they will have an inclusive governance institution... if they are then saying that they will follow the roadmap, as agreed to by the heads of state at the AU, we are saying let's give them therefore the benefit of the doubt."

To a question on what constituted an all-inclusive government in Libya, Fransman made it clear South Africa saw Gaddafi loyalists as part of this process.

"There are different issues in Libya. There's tribal matters, there's different groupings, political groupings and formations.

"The NTC, with all these undercurrents... has to work towards an inclusive governance and interim authority, because in the end there must be democratic elections. That will include even those... who were with Gaddafi historically," he said.

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