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Nigeria Recalls Envoy Over Gadhafi's 'Irresponsible' Comments

Nigeria has recalled its envoy in Libya after Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi suggested Africa's most populous country split along religious lines as a solution to its perennial religious and sectarian violence.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi's comments at a meeting of African students in Tripoli on Tuesday have drawn angry reactions from the Nigerian government. Mr. Gadhafi suggested that Nigeria be divided into separate Muslim and Christian states in order to stop sectarian violence.

A spokesman for the foreign ministry in Abuja, Ozo Nwobu, read a government statement to reporters

Nigerian Government's Statement:

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"The insensitivity and often times irresponsible utterances of Colonel Gadhafi, his theatrics and grandstanding at every auspicious occasion have become too numerous to recount," he said. "These have indeed diminished his status and credibility as a leader to be taken seriously. His comments on the crisis in Jos, Plateau state, are most unacceptable and unbecoming of any leader who claims to advocate and champion the cause of African unity and integration," said the spokesman.

Nigerian lawmakers condemned Mr. Gadhafi's outbursts during debates in parliament. Senate President David Mark dismissed the Libyan leader's comments as the ranting of a mad man.

The government says recalling its ambassador was part of a review of its relationship with Libya, but clarified that it did not amount to breaking diplomatic ties.

"For now, we need to consult with him [ambassador] to know what is going on," said foreign ministry spokesman Nwobu. "That is why he is representing us there. Through his assessment of the situation further decisions will be reached. I wouldn't completely say that we have broken diplomatic relations with Libya. It is a form of protestation which is normal in diplomatic practice," he added.

Mr. Gadhafi said that a Christian homeland in the south could have Lagos as its capital, while a Muslim homeland in the north would have Abuja as its principal city. Nigeria's 140 million population is almost evenly divided between Muslims and Christians.

The comments by Mr. Gadhafi came at a sensitive time in Nigeria when ethnic clashes had flared up again around the north-central city of Jos.