'AU is not being taken seriously by the developed countries'
President Jacob Zuma has once again lashed out at the Nato-led military intervention in Libya, saying it amounted to undermining the African Union.
He was speaking exclusively to Scott MacLeod, editor of the Cairo Review, a quarterly journal of the school of global affairs and public policy at the American University in Cairo, Egypt.
Zuma - who is leading an AU delegation tasked with intervening in the conflict - said the continental body and its members had been reduced to mere spectators in the ensuing Libyan conflict when they should be playing a more prominent role.
According to him, the AU had come up with concrete proposals which could pave the way for talks that could lead to a cease-fire and a negotiated settlement, but these were being ignored.
"The manner in which we are handling the Libyan question is beginning to introduce a feeling that the AU is not regarded seriously by the developed countries.
"Here is a situation where the AU has the most advanced proposal on the table to bring about peace and stability, (but) there doesn't seem to be a good connection," he said.
SA was one of the countries that voted in favour of UN resolution 1973 in support of military intervention in Libya after pro-democracy demonstrations were violently crushed by the country's ruler, Muammar Gaddafi.
But the Pretoria government has lately been critical of the level of bombardment of Gaddafi targets, including hits on his compound by Nato jets, saying this amounted to regime change.
Zuma said he would be returning to Libya in his capacity as president of South Africa to try to convince both sides to again return to the negotiating table.
The AU delegation has put forward a number of proposals to try to end the conflict, but the National Transitional Council - which represents the Libyan rebels from their stronghold in the eastern city of Benghazi - has rejected any deal that could see Gaddafi remaining in power.
Asked if Gaddafi could be persuaded to step aside, Zuma said he was confident the Libyan leader would accept any solution that brought about peace.
"Knowing him I think we would be able to discuss some things that could perhaps help move towards resolving the problem," he said.
Zuma also expressed some frustrations at the slow pace of resolving the crisis in Zimbabwe and ensuring that both parties stick to the terms of the global political agreement.
"I think to some degree we never thought it would reach this point. We thought by this time we would have resolved the situation in Zimbabwe. I think we have made progress in Zimbabwe," he said.
He added that South Africa's acceptance into the Brazil, Russia, India and China grouping (Brics) had given it strategic allies in the battle to reform institutions such as the UN Security Council, the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. - Staff Reporter
- 'You can't be the champion of democracy but at the same time be so conservative in practice ... we believe the UN Security Council should be opened up; in other words, the regions of the world should be represented in the same way.' - President Jacob Zuma on reform of the UN Security council.
- 'We are working very hard to ensure that we take advantage of Chinese markets. They also take advantage of our market, which includes the continent. So we want them to go even deeper.' - On closer ties between South Africa and China.
- 'We have had very friendly relations with the US, and it has been a view in the continent that the US could have done even more than it has done up until now.' - On SA relations with the US.
- 'We have dealt with a number of pockets of conflicts in the continent. Today you could count them with one hand. In the past there were conflicts all over.' - On efforts to resolve problems on the continent.
- 'The manner in which we are handling the Libyan question unfortunately is beginning to introduce a feeling that the AU is not regarded seriously by the developed countries.' - On the Nato bombardment in Libya.
- 'I cannot foretell what's going to happen, but knowing him I think we would be able to discuss some things that could perhaps help move towards resolving the problem.' - Asked if Muammar Gaddafi can be persuaded to step aside.
- 'I think to some degree we never thought it would reach this point. We thought by this time we would have resolved the situation in Zimbabwe, but of course, each country has its own dynamics. I think we have made progress in Zimbabwe.' - On resolving the Zimbabwean crisis.
- 'These emerging economies began to be the sharper point of the voice of the developing countries. And therefore Brics becomes the really cutting edge of that voice.' - On the benefits to South Africa of being a member of Brics.
For the full transcript of the interview please go to www.thecairoreview.com