Addis Ababa: An international arrest warrant for Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi complicates efforts to end the conflict, the African Union head said on Wednesday, also warning of a greater conflict and spread of weapons.
"It complicates the situation," African Union Commission chairman Jean Ping told reporters when asked about the warrant. "I am not the only one to say it. Western countries also say it," he said.
"Everyone knows that the ICC always acts at a moment that is not convenient, to put oil on the fire, we are used to that."
The warrant was issued for the long-time Libyan leader, his son Seif al-Islam, and intelligence chief Abdullah al-Senussi.
Asked if African leaders would act on the warrant, Ping said he could not speak for them. Several have been criticised for acting on an ICC warrant for Sudanese leader Omar al-Bashir, wanted on genocide charges.
Meanwhile, France said it had air dropped arms to rebels fighting Gaddafi, for whom the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued an arrest warrant last week for atrocities in the conflict that erupted mid-February.
Ping said the pan-continent group was concerned about weapons being supplied to the conflict, saying they could "supply terrorism" or drug traffickers and spread through the region.
"What worries us is not who is giving what, it is just what happens to the weapons that are distributed by all the parties to all the parties," Ping said, adding this included those supplied by Gaddafi.
There was a risk of increased conflict as in Somalia, he said. "There is a risk of civil war, the risk of partition of the country, the risk of Somalisation of the country, the risk of having arms everywhere with terrorism."
The African Union stood firmly behind its roadmap to end the conflict drawn up early March, he said.
This included an end to fighting, negotiations for a ceasefire and an "inclusive and consensual" transition with reforms to meet "the legitimate aspirations of the Libyan people for democracy".
On the rebels` insistence that they would only negotiate if Gaddafi stepped down, he said: "We are saying: come to the table of negotiation with your preconditions, all conditions ... we will discuss these."
Ping said it was normal that there would be differences within the African Union on resolving the conflict but stressed it was committed to a common position.
African Union leaders open a two-day summit on Thursday that is expected to be dominated by the Libyan crisis with the conflict in Sudan also a priority for the grouping.
As the region organisation searches for an "African solution" to the Libyan fighting, it has refused to join calls for Gaddafi to go, although Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade did this month say the sooner he left, the better.
Gaddafi was chairman of the African Union two years ago and has funded conflicts and development on the continent, for which he has long urged to unite as an "United States of Africa".
African leaders have invited the rebel Transitional National Council to the sidelines of a summit in Malabo for talks.