African Union set to urge end to NATO Libya strikes

African leaders geared up to demand an outright end to NATO air strikes on Libya.

Updated: May 26, 2011, 17:04 PM IST

Addis Ababa: African leaders on Thursday geared up to demand an outright end to NATO air strikes on Libya, accusing the West of sidelining African nations in efforts to end a conflict on their home turf.

"Some international players seem to be denying Africa any significant role in the search for a solution to the Libyan conflict," African Union Commission chief Jean Ping said late Wednesday at a summit.

"Africa is not going to be reduced to the status of an observer of its own calamities," he warned the African leaders gathered for the special summit given over to conflicts on the continent, notably to Libya and Sudan.

He said that the AU would call for an end to NATO operations in Libya and demand that its roadmap be used as a basis for a resolution to the conflict.

"This summit must send a clear unambiguous message to our partners, both bilateral and multilateral on the need for them to recognise and support Africa`s ownership of efforts to restore peace on the continent," Ping said.

The leaders expect to wrap up their summit later Thursday.

The pan-African bloc has called for a ceasefire and set up a high-level mediation team, but its efforts have had little impact on the ground as Western powers continue with air raids against Muammer Gaddafi`s regime.

Ping earlier Wednesday reiterated that "only a political solution can lead to a lasting peace" in Libya, telling the summit: "The situation in Libya remains a serious concern for us, for the future of Libya itself as well as for regional countries."

The ceasefire plan put forward by the AU that included a transition period to organise elections, was accepted by Gaddafi himself but rejected by the Libyan rebels who insisted on Gaddafi`s departure first.

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

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

Presidency sources said the talks would focus on Gaddafi`s "exit strategy."

Libyan rebels have not warmed to the AU`s overtures either, wary of the ties between the continental body and Gaddafi, 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 Gaddafi`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 Gaddafi`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 Gaddafi`s government.

Bureau Report