Kadhafi agrees to help find lensman's remains: S.Africa

31st May 2011, Comments 0 comments

Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi has agreed to help find the remains of South African photographer Anton Hammerl, who was shot in the desert last month, South Africa's foreign minister said Tuesday.

"The confirmation for cooperation came from Colonel Kadhafi himself to our president that they will work firmly with South Africa to help us find his remains," Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told journalists after South African President Jacob Zuma returned from meeting Kadhafi in Tripoli on Monday.

"We will spare no effort in finding his remains," she said.

South African authorities only learned of Hammerl's death after the release on May 18 of four other journalists who were with him when he was shot in a remote part of the Libyan desert six weeks earlier.

"The last we heard about his death was from his colleagues who saw him fall, and the assumption is maybe he might be buried in the area where he has fallen," Nkoana-Mashabane said.

The 41-year-old Austrian-South African had been at the centre of a weeks-long campaign by diplomats, family, friends and colleagues pushing for his release after Libyan officials said he was still alive.

"We were really, really devastated by the demise of Anton Hammerl in Libya," Nkoana-Mashabane told parliament on Tuesday.

"Our officials had to follow the released journalists across the border to Tunisia to listen to the trauma they had gone through of being sworn into secrecy for 44 days about the whereabouts and the demise of Anton Hammerl."

Libya's terrain and the country being a war zone was going to make the search for his body difficult, she said.

Zuma met Kadhafi on Monday to try broker a peace deal in the country's conflict, but failed to close the gap between the Libyan leader and rebels on a plan proposed by the African Union.

Zuma's office said Tuesday the Libyan authorities had promised to help find Hammerl's remains and that the South African government would work with Hammerl's family on the various proposals.

© 2011 AFP

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