Zuma: African Union will not recognize Libya rebels

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) - The U.N. has urged African leaders to "encourage new leadership" in Libya...

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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (AP) – The African Union will not yet recognize Libyan rebels as the new government of Libya, South African President Jacob Zuma said Friday, rejecting calls for recognition from Libyan rebel leaders.

Zuma called for an immediate cease-fire and said the Libyan capital of Tripoli was not yet under full rebel control. He spoke as AU leaders met in the Ethiopian capital to discuss the next action they should take regarding Libya. Many African nations have long ties with Col. Moammar Gadhafi and the AU has had difficulty taking a unanimous stand.

“Fighting is still going on. That is the reality,” said Zuma, who chairs the AU committee on Libya. “We can’t say this is a legitimate (government) now.”

He said the AU did not rule out pro- or anti-Gadhafi forces from taking part in a future Libyan government. African countries like Ethiopia and Nigeria that already recognized the rebels were free to do so and also support the AU position, he said.

The U.N. has urged African leaders to “encourage new leadership” in Libya.

“We must help the country’s new leaders to establish an effective, legitimate government that represents and speaks for all the country’s diverse people,” U.N. deputy secretary general Asha Rose Migiro told AU leaders.

Earlier in the day, Mahmoud Jibril, the head of the rebel National Transitional Council, called for recognition from the AU and the urgent release of frozen Libyan assets, saying the government could face a “legitimacy crisis” if the Libyan people’s demands are not met.

The Libyan opposition is setting up an interim government in the capital of Tripoli despite ongoing street battles. They hold almost all of the country and have already been recognized as the legitimate authority by most of the world.

Now the opposition needs says it urgently needs at least $5 billion in frozen assets to pay state salaries and maintain services in Libya, including areas still under Gadhafi’s control. Funds are also needed for an army and a police force to restore order and confiscate arms, he said.

“If the services expected by the citizens are not met, we may be faced with a legitimacy crisis,” Jibril said at a joint news conference with Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

Jibril was in Turkey to attend a meeting of the so-called “Contact Group” of some 30 countries leading efforts to stabilize Libya.

The U.S. and South Africa reached a deal Thursday that will release $1.5 billion in frozen Libyan assets in American banks which the U.S. is earmarking for the cash-strapped rebels.

South Africa had blocked agreement in the Security Council committee monitoring sanctions against Libya on unfreezing the $1.5 billion in U.S. banks over concerns that it implied recognition of the Council. South Africa, the AU and the U.N. have not recognized the rebel government.

Jibril said he hoped a rebel representative would soon take up the country’s seat at the U.N.

Analysts estimate that as much as $110 billion is frozen in banks worldwide. Several European nations are also seeking to release funds, including Britain, France and Italy, which announced Thursday it wants to release $505 million for the rebels.

“The waving of the new flag, international recognition and financial support are the three pillars for a sovereign Libya,” Turkish minister Davutoglu said.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.