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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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South Africa President Jacob Zuma and President of the United Nations Security Council listens at the UN headquarters in New York, Thursday.

Brendan McDermid/Reuters

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South Africa has wasted no time in its first weeks as president of the United Nations Security Council, with President Jacob Zuma taking the UN to task for ignoring the African Union and moving ahead with military intervention in Libya last year.

During a debate on how to improve relations between the UN and the African Union, Mr. Zuma said that the AU had a peace plan that could have worked, allowing a peaceful transfer of power from Muammar Qaddafi to a transitional government.

Instead, the violent overthrow of Mr. Qaddafi – backed by NATO warplanes – had destabilized the region, with pro-Qaddafi fighters and weapons flooding the neighboring countries of North Africa.

“A problem which was confined to one country, Libya, has now grown to be a regional problem. The lesson we should draw from the Libyan experience is that greater political coherence and a common vision between the AU and the UN are critical in the resolution of African conflicts,” the Associated Press quoted Mr. Zuma as saying.

Zuma’s speech caps more than a year of angry rhetoric and periodic sullen silence between South Africa and the United States. During the Arab uprisings across North Africa early last year, many members of South Africa’s left-leaning ruling coalition warned that the West was creating the conditions for “regime change” in order to take over the region’s rich oil resources.

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