African Union Commission Chief Jean Ping says AU sanctions against Madagascar's leaders are being undermined by the permanent members of the UN Security Council.  Sudan and Somalia were also on Mr. Ping's agenda during a news briefing at AU headquarters.

Africa's top diplomat says targeted sanctions approved by the AU Peace and Security Council against the government of Madagascar's de facto President Andry Rajoelina are working. He pointed to the army's end of April ultimatum for an acceptable way out of the 13-month political crisis as evidence the sanctions are putting pressure on the island nation's leadership.

The AU slapped a travel ban and assets freeze on Mr. Rajoelina and 108 other top officials March 17 after Madagascar's government turned its back on previously signed power sharing accords. All AU member states are bound to enforce the sanctions. But Commission Chairman Ping says the force of the penalties is undermined by a lack of support from the United Nations Security Council.

He said while African nations are mandated to enforce the sanctions, they would be more effective if endorsed by the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, which comprise an international contact group on Madagascar.  But he noted that African states had no means to force the big powers to act, except moral force. Other than that, he said, there's nothing we can do about it.

Mr. Ping also says he is encouraged by developments in Somalia following last month's accord between the transitional government and a moderate Sufi Islamic group. He said the alliance is beginning to turn the tide in their fight against radical al-Shabab rebels.

"The agreement reached here in Addis was important," said Jean Ping. "For the reason you know. They are controlling, and they are serious, and you see the result in the field. The impact of this is now seen by the al-Shabab. The process is long, but where have you seen this process going fast enough.

Mr. Ping also expressed general satisfaction with the way Sudan's elections have been going, considering some major parties are boycotting large parts of the poll. He said despite all the reported failings, the process seems to be going better than expected.

"Sudan, the biggest country in the continent, never organized a democratic election for almost 25 years," he said. "So what can be said is that many problems have been raised, many similar to what we observe in the continent. [But] there is not violence during elections, it is a fact, because everybody thought we would have violence. No violence. of these are relatively, if you compare to what was the fear, relatively good news."

Ping welcomed the decision to extend voting for two days, and noted that prominent international observers such as former US president Jimmy Carter had given a mostly positive assessment of  election.

Mr. Carter was quoted as saying it was still too early to judge the integrity of the vote. But he told reporters in southern Sudan that despite administrative problems, he was not aware of any evidence of fraud.