African Union Hopes To Broker Libya Peace Deal
RENEE MONTAGNE, host:
Leaders of the African Union are hoping to broker a peace deal in Libya. The group is in eastern Libya today to negotiate with the rebel leadership. They've also met with Moammar Gadhafi, and they say he's agreed to their roadmap to end the fighting with rebels. NPR's Lourdes Garcia-Navarro has this report from the Libyan capital, Tripoli.
LOURDES GARCIA-NAVARRO: One of the names Gadhafi prefers to go by is King of Africa - the modest little title an allusion to the billions of dollars from his country's oil wells he's given to the leaders in the African continent over the years. Those who came here are Gadhafi's old friends, and he put on a show for them.
(Soundbite of people chanting in foreign language)
GARCIA-NAVARRO: At his compound, Bab al-Azizia, in Tripoli, hundreds of screaming supporters were there to chant his name. Wearing a brown burnoose and a turban, he emerged with the African delegation from a tent he had set up in the compound courtyard. He then got into a van and did a victory lap, his upper body poking through the open sunroof as he clasped his hands.
After several hours of meetings, South African President Jacob Zuma said they had a deal.
President JACOB ZUMA (South Africa): (Through translator) (Unintelligible) have accepted the road map as presented by the (unintelligible) of the AU.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: At a press conference conducted at 2:00 a.m., Ramtane Lamamra of Algeria said the deal includes four key points: an immediate end to the fighting, the delivery of humanitarian aid to affected populations, the protection of foreign nationals, especially African migrants, and a dialogue between the warring parties that will lead to political reforms.
But beyond that, the details were sparse. When asked if among the topics discussed was the key rebel demand that Gadhafi step down, the envoy was vague.
Mr. RAMTANE LAMAMRA (Commissioner for Peace and Security, African Union): Well, to be quite frank with you, there were some discussions between the leaders, and I cannot report on those confidential discussions as a general principle. The African Union considers that it is up to the Libyan people to choose democratically their leaders. It is not up to any outside force.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Gadhafi does seem to have agreed to have some kind of international monitors to oversee any cease-fire - a crucial step, as he has gone back on his cease-fire pledge several times already. Lamamra says international monitors could come from the African Union, the U.N., the Arab League, or any combination of those bodies.
Mr. LAMAMRA: The international community will have to stand ready to supply the human resources as well as the assets which are needed to make the mechanism credible.
GARCIA-NAVARRO: Another indication that whatever happens in Libya, the international community is going to be involved here for some long time to come.
The group, minus South African President Zuma, who had to leave because of other commitments, is in Benghazi today. The rebels view the AU with suspicion because of their close ties to Gadhafi. Its current leader, the president of Equatorial Guinea, condemned foreign intervention in what he called an internal Libyan problem. The rebel leadership has also said it will only negotiate after Gadhafi and his family have stepped down.
The AU isn't the only player, though, trying to help the two sides to negotiate. Turkey too has its own proposal. And while these peace initiatives may go nowhere, it is a sign of a new phase in the conflict here. It's becoming increasingly clear that neither side can win this war by military means alone, and so at some point, with someone shepherding the process, negotiations will eventually have to begin.
Lourdes Garcia-Navarro, NPR News, Tripoli.
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