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Is Jacob Zuma Qaddafi's only hope?

The South African leader is going to bat for Muammar Qaddafi after a bad couple of weeks for the Libyan strongman.

By Staff writer / May 31, 2011

In this photo, South Africa's President Jacob Zuma (l.) meets with Libyan president Muammar Qaddafi, in Tripoli, Libya, on Monday, May 30.

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Libya's Muammar Qaddafi has a dwindling list of friends. Generals, ambassadors, and ministers have all defected. The head of his central bank jumped ship last week.

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Even Silvio Berlusconi, who kissed Qaddafi's hand last year and publicly praised his "deep wisdom," has abandoned him. Today in the de facto rebel capital of Benghazi, Italian Foreign Minister Franco Fratini threw Italy's weight solidly behind the rebellion, promising hundreds of millions to help them win the Libyan war. Adding insult to injury, he said the Italian money was being lent against Qaddafi's frozen assets in Europe.

But at least Qaddafi can depend on Jacob Zuma and the African Union. The South African president was in Tripoli yesterday pushing for an end to the NATO air campaign that has aided the Benghazi-based rebels. “Nothing other than a dialogue among all parties in Libya can bring about a lasting solution,” Zuma said in a statement released by his office.

Qaddafi has ruled Libya since taking power in a 1969 coup. He's used torture and executed his political opponents over the years, while vastly enriching himself and his extended family. When the originally peaceful protests against his rule began, he responded by having protesters shot in Tripoli, Benghazi, and other cities. The attitude of the rebels has been, given his actions, that Qaddafi can't be trusted and his departure from power is the only acceptable starting point for a new Libyan future.

The list of countries that agree with them grows larger every day.

Last week, Russia, which abstained from the UN Security Council vote that authorized international action over Libya and his criticized NATO strikes, said Qaddafi was no longer the legitimate ruler of LIbya and needs to step down.

"If Qaddafi makes this decision, which will be beneficial for the country and the people of Libya, then it will be possible to discuss the form of his departure, what country may accept him and on what terms, and what he may keep and what he must lose," Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said.

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