South African President says that embattled Libyan leader Gaddafi has accepted a roadmap to end the civil war while calling for NATO to cooperate.
Press TV interviewed Editor of Pan-African News Wire Abayomi Azikiwe regarding the bombing of Libya, the African Union and the US supported al-Qaeda leaders.
Press TV: How do you understand the situation Abayomi?
Azikiwe: It seems like a positive development in the process of bringing about a ceasefire in Libya. As you mentioned, there has been escalating fighting in Ajdabiya. Of course this delegation is following up on what the March 10th meeting of the Peace and Security Council of the African Union accomplished over a month ago.
On March the 11th there was an issuance by the African Union opposing foreign intervention in the current situation in Libya, and also calling for immediate negotiations to end the conflict in the North African country. In the delegation, five of them left for Mauritania also in North Africa, including in the delegation is President Jacob Zuma of the Republic of South Africa, Mohamed Ould Abdel Aziz of Martiana, President Amadou Toumani Toure of Mali and President Denis Sassou Nguesso of the Republic of Congo.
Their delegation was approved by both the NATO forces as well as the European Union. So it appears as if the European Union and NATO are loosening up in regards to accepting or acknowledging the role that is being played now for over a month by the African Union to bring about a resumption of discussions and also to bring about a ceasefire in Libya. This is a very important development, but we still don't know what the response is going to be by the opposition forces based in Benghazi.
… So that still remains to be seen. The countries that are behind the bombing, going on right now against Libya as well as the opposition forces, whether or not are going to be willing to accept these overtures by Gaddafi who says he has accepted the basis for these negotiations outlined by the African Union.
There are three major points. They are calling for the immediate cessation of the fighting. They also want to escalate the distribution of humanitarian relief in the areas affected by the fighting. They also want to foster dialogue between these conflicting parties in Libya. Those are the three main aspects of the agreement that Gaddafi has agreed to today in Tripoli.
Press TV: The United States was saying earlier that there are no plans absolutely whatsoever for implementing troops in Libya, but there are talks in the United States, we have learned, of sending troops actually on the ground in Libya. What are your hearings on that? How possible is that and if it is possible what can explain this change of heart on the US part?
Azikiwe: I'm not exactly sure it's a change of heart. I think the US has seen the futility of the air operations against the Libyan government. This is for the simple fact that it has not been able to win any territory for the opposition forces in the Eastern part of Libya. They seem to be still largely confined to the city of Benghazi and off course the battle that is going on now in Ajdabiya. The veracity of the fighting forces among the opposition has really not been assisted to a great degree by the air and missile strike levels of the United States and NATO. I also wanted to point out that the opposition to this war is escalating inside the United States as well as Canada.
Yesterday we covered a demonstration in New York City in lower Manhattan that had thousands of thousands of people demonstrating not only against the recent intervention in Libya but also other wars that are going on in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iraq. They are linking that with the problems associated with human rights and civil rights violations of the Muslim community in the United States. There's also a demonstration taking place today right now on the West Coast in San Francisco against US military involvement in Libya as well as other geopolitical regions throughout the world.
So I think the US government under Barack Obama who announced just this past week that he attends to seek the presidency again in 2012; the pressure against him is mounting; to do something to try and curve the Pentagon budget, which is growing on an annual basis. People may or may not be aware that now the US has the largest military budget of any other country in the world.
It also has a budget that outstrips all countries combined throughout the world. With the economic crisis in the United States still going to be a major political issue next year, I believe that this administration will be well deserved by trying to bring down the level of military spending. These factors also have to be taken into consideration in light of the fact that appears to be a strain of relations between the NATO forces and the opposition forces. We have to remember there was a bombing several days ago that resulted in the death of forces fighting against the Libyan government.
Initially, it was reported that thirteen people were killed in these strikes. Later it was said that five people were killed. At any rate, it is a source of extreme humiliation for the opposition forces when in fact the NATO forces are claiming they are there to protect civilians. In fact, some of their bombing missions have resulted in the death of civilians. Then of course it didn't help when you had the Deputy Commander of NATO saying that he was not going to apologize after an apology was demanded from the Libyan Nation Council for the NATO bombing of their forces inside Libya.
That in fact has prompted some of the personnel within the Libyan National Council to threaten in going to the United Nations Security Council to demand the end of the NATO no-fly zone. So I think it's a very fluid situation right now. You have a number of dynamics operating. Of course the resumption of the political campaign inside the United States and the mounting opposition inside the United States against the military adventure by the Pentagon. And of course the continuing strained relations between NATO and the Libyan National Council has of course escalated over the last few days.
Press TV: I'm going to give you two names: Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi and Noman Ben Othman if I'm not mistaken with the pronunciation. They are two alleged al-Qaeda leaders that we are hearing them to be deployed in the East of Libya, and they are again allegedly supported by the US. What are they doing there?
Azikiwe: Well, it's a very interesting coalition that has sprung up in this war. As we mentioned in an interview several days ago, the United States has been supporting sections of the opposition forces that are fighting in Eastern Libya. The Libyan government has stated repeatedly that there is a faction within the opposition that had some alliances with the al-Qaeda organization.
That is quite a shock for a lot of people inside the United States. We are often told by the Obama Administration and previous administrations that al-Qaeda is considered the major enemy in the so-called war on terror being waged by the Pentagon and geo-political regions around the world. I think that has caused a lot of concern among various constituencies inside the United States.
Then of course we have at the same time people who for the last three decades had been supported by the Central Intelligence Agency, and been trained by the US intelligence agency to be involved in the destabilization campaigns against Libya. This is something that should be addressed by the Libyan National Council, and also should be addressed by some of the human rights organizations that are making allegations against the Libyan government. If this in fact the case, that there are forces that have fought with al-Qaeda that are now on the ground in Eastern Libya that are fighting against the Gaddafi government.
This of course raises serious questions about the credibility and political character of the war that is being waged right now inside Libya. I think the US forces, and NATO forces are becoming frustrated with the opposition forces feeling that they themselves are divided, that they are not a formidable fighting force, and have not been able to make any significant headway in the long term against the Gaddafi government. That's why General Ham who is the new Commander of the US African Command came out several days ago, and said he does not rule out the deployment of ground forces in Libya…
It would change the whole war entirely as we saw in Iraq eight years ago. The shock and awe campaign started out the war, but once the ground forces moved into Iraq the war became much more complicated. Some eight years later the US military forces are still (over 50,000) occupying Iraq. Just yesterday we saw substantial demonstrations in Baghdad in which people were calling for the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq.