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Several African Leaders Criticize Air Attacks in Libya

South African President Jacob Zuma (file photo)
South African President Jacob Zuma (file photo)

South African President Jacob Zuma has warned that the Western-led bombings of Libyan military installations must not target civilians. Zuma was one of several African leaders who criticized the bombings, which were conducted as part of the effort to establish a no-fly zone in Libyan air space.

South African President Jacob Zuma called for an immediate cease-fire in Libya and said his government would not support any foreign effort to overthrow the government of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, which has been battling an eastern-based insurgency for the past month.

"As South Africa we say no to the killing of civilians, no to the regime-change doctrine and no to the foreign occupation of Libya or any other sovereign state," Zuma said.

Zuma voiced support for the United Nations Security Council resolution imposing a no-fly zone over Libya but said it must be implemented in letter and in spirit.

South Africa, one of the non-permanent members of the Security Council, voted for the resolution to impose a no-fly zone over Libya. The vote followed aerial attacks by pro-Gadhafi forces on civilians in rebel-held areas.

Zuma is part of a special committee appointed by the African Union to mediate the Libya conflict.

The African Union has also criticized the multinational coalition attacks on Libyan anti-aircraft and communications installations in which several dozen civilians were reportedly killed.

The chairman of the Southern African Development Community, Namibia’s President Hifikepunye Pohamba, said the strikes amounted to interference in the internal affairs of Africa.

The presidents of Zimbabwe and Uganda echoed the condemnation as has the foreign minister of Nigeria.

A spokesman for the United Nations denied that the removal of Colonel Gadhafi was part of the no-fly zone mission. He said the U.N. resolution clearly stated that the purpose of the no-fly zone is to protect civilians and it forbids the use of foreign ground troops in the effort.

A senior U.S. military official said the coalition attacks were likely to lessen as the no-fly zone was established.

The AU later this week is due to host a meeting in Ethiopia to discuss ways to resolve the Libyan crisis. The meeting is to be attended by delegates from the European Union, the Arab League, the Islamic Conference and the United Nations.

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