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African Union officially recognises Libya’s new leadership

The African Union has officially recognised Libya’s National Transitional Council as the country’s legitimate leadership, the group’s chairman said in a statement Tuesday.

The announcement was transmitted by the office of South African President Jacob Zuma, six days after he hosted a meeting of the AU’s special panel on Libya in Pretoria.

The president of Equatorial Guinea, Teodoro Obiang Nguema, who holds the bloc’s rotating chair, made the announcement after consulting with the panel in New York, ahead of the UN General Assembly, the statement said.

Obiang Nguema “hereby announces that the African Union recognises the National Transitional Council (NTC) as the representative of the Libyan people as they form an all-inclusive transitional government that will occupy the Libyan seat at the African Union.”

“The African Union stands ready to support the Libyan people… as they rebuild their country towards a united, democratic, peaceful and prosperous Libya,” it said.

The AU’s reluctance to formally recognise Libya’s new leadership had created a split on the continent, as about 20 nations had already established ties.

At the AU panel’s meeting last week in Pretoria, the group had “committed itself to working with the NTC” but stopped short of formally recognising it.

The AU has doggedly stuck to its own “roadmap” to the Libyan conflict and criticised the NATO bombing campaign.

The rebellion had rejected the AU proposal, insisting on the removal of Moamer Kadhafi from power.

But earlier this month, the NTC gave assurances that it would work to meet key concerns of the African Union, promising that they remained committed to the African continent and to building national unity after Kadhafi’s ouster, the statement said.

The NTC also promised to protect foreign workers, including black Africans, following allegations that many had been detained on suspicions they had worked as mercenaries for Kadhafi.