Zuma criticises Gaddafi during call

2011-03-10 14:11

Pretoria - President Jacob Zuma took advantage of a phone call from Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi to tell him South Africa abhorred the "heinous violations of human rights against his own people", International Relations Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said on Thursday.

Nkoana-Mashabane told a media briefing in Pretoria: "The president took advantage of that call to tell him that South Africa has led a campaign to suspend Libya from the human rights council in Geneva."

Zuma had also taken the opportunity to tell Gaddafi that South Africa "abhors the heinous human rights violations against his own people", she said.

"We took advantage through our president to tell him this has to stop with immediate effect," she said.

Zuma's office refused on Wednesday to confirm or deny reports about what he said to the embattled Libyan leader as reported by the BBC, crediting Libyan TV.

Libyan TV quoted Zuma as calling on the African Union to "take decisive action and uncover the conspiracy that Libyan (sic) is facing".

Zuma, who is out of the country attending the AU Security Council meeting in Ethiopia, was also quoted as "stressing the need not to depend on tendentious reports circulated by foreign media outlets and the need to listen to the Libyan media in this regard".

His office issued a statement late on Wednesday saying that it "would not be drawn into rumours and distortions of the conversation with Gaddafi, who had called to explain his side of the story".

The presidency also said that Zuma had spoken out "clearly" on the Libyan issue, openly condemning the loss of life, attacks on civilians and reported violations of human rights in Libya.

Nkoana-Mashabane on Thursday emphasised that South Africa not only supported but also co-sponsored all resolutions taken in the United Nations Security Council.

Nkoana-Mashabane said it was critical to also remember that it was only Zuma who followed up on any misadventure by Gaddafi, taking him to task on various occasions, as when he tried to perpetuate his idea for the passing of a resolution on a United States of Africa, and when he tried to remain a permanent president of the African Union.

Protests against the 68-year-old Gaddafi began on February 15 as anti-government demonstrators sought his ouster after nearly 42 years of rule.

Conflict in the North African country still raged on Thursday amid condemnation by world leaders.

Twenty-eight defence ministers met in Brussels on Thursday to discuss the international community's response to the situation.

Nkoana-Mashabane said the matter was also being discussed by the AU peace Security Council. Libya's fate as member of the AU was expected to feature.

The status of Libya's ambassador to South Africa Abdullah Alzubedi, who has refused to resign, would also be tabled.

Alzubedi, who has denounced Gaddafi's regime, said he wanted to resign, but would not because he wanted to help Libyans, mostly students, in South Africa.

Asked whether she thought Gaddafi respected the resolutions by the AU and UN, Nkoana-Mashabane replied: "If aerial bombardment of civilians would have stopped I would have said yes, he is beginning to show signs of wanting to respect UN Security Council and calls by the international community.

"I don't have evidence that he is beginning to take heed of these calls."

- SAPA

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