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Zuma tells the UN: Listen to African Union

South African President Zuma airs complaints of UN interference in Libya during a UN Security Council meeting on how the African Union and the UN can work more closely.

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By November, the Congress of South African Trade Unions still hadn’t cooled down, announcing at a central committee meeting that the war in Libya was motivated by Western greed, and NATO’s air campaign in support of Libyan rebels fighting Qaddafi was an attempt “to effect a regime change in Libya to allow access to the resources of that country.”

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Not enough time before sending in bombers?

For Zuma and many leaders within the AU, the problem was twofold: One, the UN didn’t give the African Union enough time to mediate Qaddafi’s transition out of power, before sending in the NATO bombers. Even a few days before the bombing raids began, Zuma was insisting that a peaceful resolution was possible. Two, South Africa eventually voted in favor of a UN resolution to allow NATO to fly air sorties over Libya to protect civilian populations from Qaddafi's military reprisals. Zuma later complained that the NATO mission was misused to support the rebels, and to force a regime change.

In his second meeting with Qaddafi, Zuma announced that the “Brother Leader” had agreed to a cease-fire with rebels, but would not step down. Rebel leaders, in turn, said they would not stop fighting until Qaddafi was overthrown.

Whether peace was possible in Libya or not, the point that the UN Security Council ended up agreeing with, unanimously, was that the AU and UN needed to set aside their differences and work more closely to solve problems in the future.

But the US did offer some pushback. US ambassador Susan Rice said that UN members were just as frustrated with the AU as the AU was with the UN.

"African Union member states have sometimes indicated that they feel ignored or disregarded by this council," she was quoted by Agence France-Presse as saying.

"Some Security Council members feel African Union member states have not always provided unified or consistent views on key issues and that the African Union has at times been slow to act on important matters."

Improved relations between the UN Security Council and the AU were certainly a goal, she added, but "this cooperation cannot be on the basis that the regional organization independently decides the policy and United Nations member states simply bless it and pay for it.”

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