African Union offers to host Libya ceasefire talks

MALABO Fri Jul 1, 2011 5:40pm EDT

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MALABO (Reuters) - African Union leaders offered on Friday to host talks between the Libyan government and rebels on a ceasefire and transition to democratic government, but left open whether there was any future role for Muammar Gaddafi.

The proposal was presented to representatives of Gaddafi and rebels attending a summit of the 53-nation grouping in the central African state of Equatorial Guinea.

"We will very soon launch talks in Addis," South African President Jacob Zuma told reporters, referring to the Ethiopian capital where the AU is headquartered.

There was no immediate reaction from either side to the offer, which according to a copy seen by Reuters, would aim to establish "a consensual and inclusive transition" via an interim government and elections.

Mahamadou Issoufou, president of Libya's neighbor Niger, said nations at the summit "had been requested" not to act on arrest warrants issued earlier this week by the International Criminal Court against Gaddafi, his son and his spy chief.

However Issoufou did not say who had made the request or whether African leaders had agreed to the demand, which would leave open the possibility of Gaddafi seeking refuge on the continent.

(Reporting by David Lewis; writing by Mark John; Editing by Matthew Jones)

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