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Libya Crisis Prompts Call for Extraordinary AU Summit in May

African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping arrives to address media before making a statement on Libya to students, in Paris, March 24, 2011

African Union Commission Chairman Jean Ping arrives to address media before making a statement on Libya to students, in Paris, March 24, 2011

The African Union will hold an extraordinary meeting of heads of state next month to examine more rapid and effective ways of responding to continental crises. Our correspondent at AU headquarters in Addis Ababa reports the summit call was prompted by concerns that the organization is being sidelined as big powers dictate solutions to African conflicts.

Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo opened a special session of the AU Peace and Security Council Tuesday with a warning. She said recent events in Libya have shown the African Union must move quickly to take the lead when crises break out or risk being left out of conflict resolution processes.

"You are all aware about the perception by different actors, media in particular, that Africa, especially the African Union, has been absent or irrelevant in the management of the crisis in Libya," said Louise Mushikiwabo.

Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra told the meeting non-Africans had hijacked the Libya peace process and sidelined an AU road map that calls for an immediate ceasefire.

"The pursuit of other agendas in Libya by non-African actors has had an impact on the implementation of the AU Road Map," said Ramtane Lamamra. "Attempts have been made to marginalize an African solution to the crisis."

Amid reports of renewed western pressure on Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi and fighting on several fronts, Lamamra warned that the conflict appears to be sliding toward stalemate. He said it is time for the big powers to back the Road Map for peace.

"We expect others to move toward our position," he said. "This being an African problem, we believe there is a need for an African solution, and therefore we think that our partners should make the effort to understand the African solution and help us to implement it."

The meeting ended with a call for an extraodinary AU summit next month on security issues, with an emphasis on Libya. Libya’s Foreign Minister Abdelati Obeidi, who traveled to Addis Ababa for the meeting, voiced support for the summit and for greater AU involvement to, in his words, "face the external forces that aggress against us".

Libyan rebel representatives earlier rejected the AU Road Map because it does not explicity call for the removal of Moammar Gadhafi. But rebel representative Abdallah Zubedi said Tuesday the anti-Gadhafi forces are moving toward accepting the idea of a greater African role in peace efforts.

Zubedi, a former Libyan ambassador to South Africa, told VOA he sees a growing acceptance by all sides that Colonel Gadhafi must go as part of any political settlement.

"Mr. Gadhafi must step down," said Zubedi. "That is I think also everybody agrees directly or indirectly, publicly or privately, that the regime must come to an end."

AU officials say planning for the extraordinary summit would start Wednesday. The exact date is not set, but Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo said the meeting is an urgent priority in what she called "making sure the Libyan people stop dying".