African Leaders Demand Halt to NATO Bombing Campaign in Libya
June 15 (Bloomberg) -- African leaders today demanded an immediate end to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization's bombing campaign in Libya and called for the African Union and United Nations to take the lead in reaching a political solution.
"We have not voted for a substitute for bombing of one group by the other," South Africa's Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane told reporters in New York, referring to the UN resolution authorizing military action against Libya leader Muammar Qaddafi's regime, which her government supported. "All forms of military intervention and bombing must stop now."
Nkoana-Mashabane and ministers of Mali, Mauritania, Uganda and Republic of Congo, which formed the AU's Ad Hoc Committee on Libya, expressed their concern about the NATO bombing campaign to the UN Security Council. Adoption of a draft statement demanding a "complete end to violence and all attacks against and abuses of civilians" was blocked by the U.S. and other Western nations.
Western and Arab leaders have demanded an end to Qaddafi's four-decade rule, and NATO aircraft have targeted his forces in a military campaign about to enter its fourth month.
"This was a meeting for expressions of frustration," said Ambassador Nestor Osorio of Colombia, a Security Council member. Ambassador Jose Moraes Cabral of Portugal, also a council member, said Uganda's Foreign Minister Ruhakana Rugunda suggested the NATO intervention amounted to "going back to colonialism" in Africa.
Call from Russia, China
The meeting in New York followed a statement today by the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a security alliance led by China and Russia and including the former Soviet states of Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, urging an end to the NATO campaign. "Domestic conflicts and crises have to be regulated exclusively by peaceful means, through political dialogue," the group said in Astana, Kazakhstan, where it is holding a summit.
The African ministers stopped short of directly criticizing the NATO campaign, saying only that it has contributed to a humanitarian crisis rather than a political solution.
"The situation also underscores the moral and also political imperative to seek a rapid solution, to spare the suffering of the civilian population, create conditions for the return of sustainable peace in Libya and to spare the region from new tribulations that stand the risk of plunging it back into instability," Mauritania's Foreign Minister Hamady Ould Hamady said.
South Africa's President Jacob Zuma was more direct yesterday in Cape Town, saying the UN resolution authorizing military action was "being abused for regime change, political assassinations and foreign military occupation."
Hamady called for an "immediate humanitarian pause" in the fighting and expressed the AU's "surprise and disappointment at the attempts to marginalize the continent in the management of the Libyan conflict."
Britain's Ambassador Mark Lyall Grant said a precondition of a halt to the NATO bombing was a cessation of attacks on civilians by the Qaddafi regime.
"The ball is in Qaddafi's court," Lyall Grant said.