World News

African Union finally recognizes Libya's NTC

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - The African Union (AU) recognized the National Transitional Council (NTC) as Libya’s de facto government on Tuesday, removing another piece of diplomatic support for ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The pan-African body, which has frequently been criticized for its ponderous reaction to events on its doorstep, said in a statement it was ready to support the NTC in its efforts to build an inclusive government.

It also urged the NTC to protect African migrant workers following reports of black Africans being targeted by militia units hunting down mercenaries loyal to Gaddafi.

Most European nations, the United States and Nigeria recognized the NTC from August 22, while China officially acknowledged the Benghazi-based group as Libya’s “ruling authority” on September 12.

The AU’s switch is likely to bring a modicum of pressure to bear on leaders such as Zimbabwe’s Robert Mugabe, who expelled Libya’s ambassador at the end of August after the envoy switched allegiance from Gaddafi to the NTC.

It also suggests South Africa, the continent’s pre-eminent economic power which has a major say in AU policy, is also ready to switch sides and bring itself into line with realities on the ground, the West and regional rival Nigeria.

South African support for Gaddafi, who helped build the AU, had its roots in a long-standing relationship between the two countries based on Libya’s backing for the African National Congress in its struggle against white-minority apartheid rule.

South African President Jacob Zuma has led AU delegations trying to broker a peace deal for Libya. Zuma has criticized the European Union and NATO for using force to bring about change in Libya and has called for Gaddafi’s officials to be a part of a transitional government.

Editing by Jon Herskovitz; and Louise Ireland