Tag Archive: African Union


http://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2011/0411/Road-map-to-Libya-peace-comes-as-both-sides-show-signs-of-fatigue

Johannesburg, South Africa

Libyan rebels are studying a truce proposal from the African Union, a day after Libya’s embattled President Muammar Qaddafi signaled that he would be willing to explore a cease-fire to allow humanitarian organizations access to civilians caught in the crossfire.

The AU’s proposed “road map” to peace comes at a time when both Mr. Qaddafi’s forces and the rebels have shown signs of fatigue, with battlefield gains by one quickly erased by the other. A long-term settlement is still far off, as rebels say the only way they’ll agree to open discussions with the regime is if Qaddafi’s forces retreat and if Qaddafi himself steps down. Yet even if the cease-fire proves to be temporary, the AU’s efforts may help to quiet criticism of the AU as ineffective in times of conflict.

“This has significance beyond Libya,” says Steven Friedman, a senior political observer and head of the Center for the Study of Democracy at the University of Johannesburg. “Five years ago, some of the responses we are seeing today would not have been possible. We are now at the stage where the AU is willing to step in and intervene in a conflict.”

IN PICTURES: Libya conflict

Presidential panel

A panel of five African presidents, including South African President Jacob Zuma, flew to Tripoli on Sunday to propose the cease-fire on humanitarian grounds, urging both sides to explore dialogue that would lead to a peaceful settlement.

The AU presidents also urged NATO to stop its air campaign against Qaddafi’s forces, a campaign that was itself backed by the United Nations Security Council in the interests of protecting civilians against Qaddafi’s use of heavy weapons in urban areas.

By organizing talks in Libya, the AU is taking back responsibility for resolving conflicts that many African leaders see as having been taken away from them when the UN Security Council approved a “no fly zone” in the spirit of protecting civilians.

In addition to its work in Libya, the AU has also been active in trying to broker peace talks in Ivory Coast, albeit with much less success so far. The AU has sent several high-level delegations to persuade incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo and President-elect Alassane Ouattara to support a cease-fire and explore the possibility of a power-sharing government. Both men claim to have won the Nov. 28, 2010, runoff elections, although Mr. Ouattara’s claim has the benefit of broad support from the international community as well as the Ivory Coast’s own independent electoral commission.

‘Libyans must decide’

In Tripoli on Monday, the AU commissioner for peace and security, Ramtane Lamamra, told reporters that “it’s not up to any outside force, even the African Union itself, to decide on the behalf of the Libyan people on who the leader of the country should be.”

President Zuman of South Africa portrayed Qaddafi’s acceptance of the proposed “road map” to peace as a victory for the AU, and urged NATO to curb its aerial attacks.

“[Qaddafi’s] delegation has accepted the road map as presented by us,” Zuma said after meeting Qaddafi. “We have to give cease-fire a chance.”

But analysts caution against a plan that Qaddafi could see as bolstering his long-term prospects.

“If the deal is simply intended to allow humanitarian relief to have access, I don’t think anyone will have a problem with that,” adds Mr. Friedman. “The fear is that this will be an attempt to prop him [Qaddafi] up and keep him in power.”

IN PICTURES: Libya conflict

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Government bombardment pushes back Libyan rebels

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20110405/ap_on_bi_ge/af_libya

By BEN HUBBARD and HADEEL AL-SHALCHI, Associated Press Ben Hubbard And Hadeel Al-shalchi, Associated Press 5 mins ago

BREGA, Libya – Libyan government forces on Tuesday unleashed a withering bombardment of the rebels outside a key oil town, pushing them back despite NATO reports that nearly a third of Moammar Gadhafi’s heavy weapons have been destroyed.

The rebels managed to take part of the oil town of Brega the day before, aided by an international air campaign, but the rocket and artillery salvos unleashed on the rebels indicates the government’s offensive capabilities remain very much intact.

“When you see this, the situation is very bad. We cannot match their weapons,” said Kamal Mughrabi, 64, a retired soldier who joined the rebel army. “If the planes don’t come back and hit them we’ll have to keep pulling back.”

Rebel attempts to fire rockets and mortars against the government forces were met with aggressive counter bombardments that sent many of the rebel forces scrambling back all the way to the town of Ajdabiya, dozens of miles (kilometers) away. There did not appear to be any immediate response from the international aircraft patrolling the skies that have aided the rebels in the past.

Early on Tuesday, however, there was an airstrike against a convoy of eight government vehicles advancing toward rebel positions, rebel officer Abdel-Basset Abibi said, citing surveillance teams.

Brig. Gen. Mark Van Uhm of NATO said Tuesday its aerial onslaught has so far destroyed 30 percent of the Gadhafi’s weapons. On Monday alone, the alliance carried out 14 attacks on ground targets across the country, destroying radars, munitions dumps, armored vehicles and a rocket launcher

Rebel forces have been helped by the arrival on the front of more trained soldiers and heavier weapons, but they are still struggling to match the more experienced and better equipped government troops, even with the aid of airstrikes.

The government has softened its public stance against any compromise that would end the fighting, but government spokesman Moussa Ibrahim said late Monday that any changes must be led by Gadhafi, who has ruled the country for more than four decades.

Click image to see photos of protests in Libya

“We could have any political system, any changes: constitution, election, anything, but the leader has to lead this forward,” he said in Tripoli.

“Don’t decide our future from abroad, give us a proposal for change from within,” Ibrahim said, chastising Western powers who have a “personal problem with the leader” and economic interests they believe would be better served if Gadhafi’s government collapsed.

The comments were unlikely to appease the rebels fighting to oust the Libyan leader who has a legacy of brutality. Any long-term settlement poses tough questions about the fate of Gadhafi’s family and the new leader of a post-Gadhafi nation, and the opposition has rejected any solution that would involved one of his sons taking power.

The head of the African Union, meanwhile, voiced his support for Gadhafi, calling for the end to foreign interference into what he called an internal Libyan problem.

Teodoro Obiang Nguema 69-year-old president of Equatorial Guinea described Western military efforts to enforce a no-fly zone over Libya as a “so-called humanitarian intervention.”

But elsewhere in the world, the rebels saw success in their efforts to establish an internationally recognized government in eastern Libya, forging tighter links with Britain and Italy, both potentially major markets for Libyan oil. Italy offered diplomatic recognition to the Libyan opposition council on Monday, becoming the third country to do so after France and Qatar.

Shipping data provider Lloyd’s Intelligence, meanwhile, confirmed that a Greek-owned tanker is on its way to Libya pick up an oil shipment, the first in almost three weeks.

The delivery would be only a tiny fraction of Libya’s pre-crisis exports of around 1.6 million barrels a day, but is viewed by analysts as a symbolic step forward.

The tanker, capable of carrying around 1 million barrels of crude oil, is currently off Port Said in Egypt and expected to arrive at the Libyan port of Marsa al-Hariga, near the eastern city of Tobruk, later in the day.

The conflict in Libya caused crude exports from the country, 17th among the world oil producers, to dwindle to a trickle, sparking a surge in global oil prices. Benchmark crude was trading at around $108 a barrel on Tuesday.

Gadhafi’s British-educated son Seif al-Islam, on Tuesday, dismissed reports that his father’s inner circle of advisers was crumbling following the defection of Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa.

He said “of course” there would be defections among senior members of the regime because some of them are old and tired and “not young like us.”

He also dismissed the idea that Koussa might have new information to offer British authorities about the Lockerbie bombing in which he was a key negotiator.

“The British and the Americans … they know everything about Lockerbie so there are no secrets” Koussa can reveal, Seif said.

___

Al-Shalchi reported from Tripoli. Associated Press writers Jane Wardell and Cassandra Vinograd in London and Slobodan Lekic in Brussels contributed to this report.

Rebels advance on eve of Libya crisis talks

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/ts_nm/us_libya

By Angus MacSwan Angus Macswan 1 hr 18 mins ago

BIN JAWAD, Libya (Reuters) – Rebels advanced toward the birthplace of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi on Monday, streaming west along the main coastal road in pick-up trucks mounted with machineguns.

Russia criticized the Western-led air strikes that have turned the tide of Libya’s conflict, saying these amounted to taking sides in a civil war and breached the terms of a United Nations Security Council resolution.

On the eve of 35-nation talks in London, Italy proposed a political deal to end the Libya crisis, including a quick ceasefire, exile for Gaddafi and dialogue between rebels and tribal leaders.

Emboldened by the Western-led air strikes against Gaddafi’s forces, the rebels have quickly reversed earlier losses and regained control of all the main oil terminals in the east of the OPEC member country.

“We want to go to Sirte today. I don’t know if it will happen,” said 25-year-old rebel fighter Marjai Agouri as he waited with 100 others outside Bin Jawad with three multiple rocket launchers, six anti-aircraft guns and around a dozen pick-up trucks with machineguns mounted on them.

But the rapid advance is stretching rebel supply lines.

“We have a serious problem with petrol,” said a volunteer fighter waiting to fill his vehicle in the oil town of Ras Lanuf.

Al Jazeera said the rebels had seized the town of Nawfaliyah from forces loyal to Gaddafi, extending their advance westwards toward his hometown of Sirte, about 120 km (75 miles) away.

However a Reuters correspondent who was about 15 km (10 miles) west of Bin Jawad on the road to Nawfaliyah heard a sustained bombardment on the road ahead.

“This is the frontline. The army has stopped over there, we are stopping here,” Mohammed al-Turki, 21, a fighter at a rebel checkpoint, told Reuters, pointing to the road ahead where the sounds of blasts were coming from.

Western-led air strikes began on March 19, two days after the U.N. Security Council authorized “all necessary measures” to protect civilians from Gaddafi’s forces. But since the outset, the mission has faced questions about its scope and aims, including the extent to which it will actively back the rebel side and whether it might target Gaddafi himself.

Russia, which abstained in the U.N. vote, said Western attacks on Gaddafi’s forces amounted to taking sides with the rebels.

“We consider that intervention by the coalition in what is essentially an internal civil war is not sanctioned by the U.N. Security Council resolution,” Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov told a news conference.

Russian oil company Tatneft is expected to book $100 million of losses on capital expenditure in Libya as a result of the conflict, a company source told Reuters.

NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen told the BBC: “We are there to protect civilians — no more, no less.” France, which dropped the first bombs of the campaign nine days ago, said the coalition was strictly complying with U.N. terms.

Qatar became the first Arab country to recognize the rebels — now in the sixth week of their uprising against Gaddafi’s 41-year rule — as the sole legitimate representative of the Libyan people. [nLDE72R0XH]

Contradicting a rebel claim to have captured Sirte, Reuters correspondent Michael Georgy reported from the city that the situation was normal. He had seen some police and military, but no signs of any fighting.

Soldiers were manning checkpoints and green Libyan flags flapped in the wind. Militiamen fired AK-47 rifles defiantly into the air. “If they come to Sirte, we will defend our city,” said Osama bin Nafaa, 32, a policeman.

As Gaddafi’s hometown and an important military base, Sirte — about half-way along the coast from the rebel stronghold of Benghazi to Tripoli — has great symbolic and strategic value. If it fell, the rebels would gain a psychological boost and the road toward the capital would lie open.

As the rebels pressed forward in the east, they reported attacks by Gaddafi’s forces in the west.

Gaddafi loyalists now control part of Misrata, the country’s third largest city, a rebel spokesman said. The government in Tripoli said it had “liberated” Misrata from rebels.

A rebel spokesman in another western town, Zintan, said forces loyal to Gaddafi bombarded the town with rockets early on Monday, Al Jazeera reported.

The Defense Ministry in London said British Tornado aircraft attacked and destroyed Libyan government ammunition bunkers in the Sabha area of Libya’s southern desert in the early hours of Monday.

Libya’s state news agency Jana said the raids caused several casualties.

CHANGE OF COMMAND

On Sunday, NATO agreed to take full command of military operations in Libya after a week of heated negotiations. The United States, which led the initial phase, had sought to scale back its role in another Muslim country after the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

An alliance spokeswoman said on Monday the transition would take a couple of days.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates said Western air strikes had “eliminated” Gaddafi’s ability to move his heavy weapons. He also raised the possibility that Gaddafi’s government could splinter and said an international conference in London on Tuesday would discuss political strategies to help bring an end to his rule.

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini told reporters he had discussed Rome’s proposals for a political deal on Libya with Germany, France and Sweden and expected to do so with Turkey later on Monday, ahead of Tuesday’s 35-nation talks.

He said an African country could offer Gaddafi asylum, and ruled out that the Libyan leader would remain in power.

“Gaddafi must understand that it would be an act of courage to say: ‘I understand that I have to go’,” Frattini added. “We hope that the African Union can find a valid proposal.”

Libya accused NATO of “terrorizing” and killing its people as part of a global plot to humiliate and weaken it.

The government says Western-led air attacks have killed more than 100 civilians, a charge denied by the coalition which says it is protecting civilians from Gaddafi’s forces and targeting only military sites to enforce a no-fly zone.

(Additional reporting by Alexander Dziadosz, Edmund Blair, Maria Golovnina, Michael Georgy, Ibon Villelabeitia, Tom Pfeiffer, Lamine Chikhi, Mariam Karouny, Joseph Nasr, Marie-Louise Gumuchian and Steve Gutterman; Writing by Mark Trevelyan; Editing by Giles Elgood)

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