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African Union pushes for ‘inclusive’ Libya government

A top-level African Union team was set Wednesday to discuss ways to press for an inclusive government in Libya, with the region still refusing to recognise the new leadership in Tripoli.

South African President Jacob Zuma is hosting the meeting in Pretoria for the AU panel, which also includes the leaders of Uganda, Mauritania, Mali and Congo-Brazzaville.

Denis Sassou Nguesso of Congo and Yoweri Museveni of Uganda were expected at the talks, along with Mauritania’s foreign minister and Mali’s ambassador to Pretoria.

Although about 20 African countries have recognised the National Transitional Council (NTC), the AU has so far refused to do so and is instead sticking to its “roadmap” for Libya, which calls for an inclusive government in Tripoli.

What exactly that means is still unclear.

South Africa’s foreign minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told reporters on Tuesday that the new government should “include all sectors and representatives of all the regions that complete Libya.”

Libya’s new interim leader Mustafa Abdel Jalil was justice minister under fallen leader Moamer Kadhafi, but the South African minister said that was not enough.

“I don’t think if you have one or two people we would then say this is all-inclusive, because you have picked one person from that part of the world,” she said.

Nkoana-Mashabane insisted that the NTC knew “exactly what the AU meant by an all-inclusive interim government” but she stopped short of saying that Kadhafi loyalists should be included.

The AU has already conceded that Kadhafi himself would not play any role in talks on the country’s future.

Zuma has repeatedly lashed NATO over the bombing campaign that helped the rebels’ military victory in Libya.

South Africa voted for the UN resolution imposing a no-fly zone over Libya, but accused the alliance of overstepping its mandate.

Pretoria accuses the alliance of failing to give the AU enough space to pursue its own proposals for Libya, although the rebels had rejected the AU initiative.

Feeling sidelined, South Africa refused to attend the Paris conference earlier this month on rebuilding Libya.

Last month South Africa tried and failed to use its non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council to scupper the release of seized Libyan assets to be used for emergency aid, arguing the move would imply formal recognition of the NTC.

Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe has also said NATO commanders should be investigated alongside Kadhafi by the International Criminal Court for war crimes.

The collapse of Kadhafi’s regime has left Africa sharply divided. Some leaders, like Zimbabwe’s President Robert Mugabe, had seen in him a kindred spirit aligned against the West.

Some benefited from Kadhafi’s oil largesse, which he used to help bankroll the AU’s operations. In South Africa, Kadhafi was a supporter of the struggle against white-minority rule.

But South Africa has chastised Kadhafi for his attacks against civilians during the six-month uprising.

Pretoria has also led the resistance to his drive to create a United States of Africa, which he dreamed would be headquartered in his hometown of Sirte.