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South Africa's dilemma over Libya

South Africa is blocking a US proposal at the UN Security Council to unfreeze $1.5bn of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's assets so they may used by the victorious rebel leadership for development and humanitarian work.

South Africa says it will approve $500m for urgent humanitarian assistance, but not the rest, because the National Transitional Council has not been recognised by the UN itself.

See The Guardian's report here.

The NTC has been recognised by dozens of Western states, as well as neighbouring Egypt and Tunisia as the legitimate government of Libya.

Urging South Africa to support the NTC, British Defence Secretary Liam Fox said:

 "South Africa is, according to their government, worried about taking sides. It's very clear what side the Libyan people are on, and I think that is what the South African government should respond to.

"I think there will be huge moral pressure on South Africa. They wanted the world at one point to stand with them against apartheid. I think they now need to stand with the Libyan people."

Criticism of the South African government’s support for the UN resolution that paved the way to NATO’s intervention has been led by the influential youth wing of the governing African National Congress (ANC).

And some ANC members feel residual loyalty to Gaddafi for his support during the struggle against apartheid. Former president Nelson Mandela is quoted as once saying: "Those who feel irritated by our friendship with President Gaddafi can go jump in the pool."

But a spokesperson for the opposition Democratic Alliance told The Guardian:

“We are disappointed and appalled by the South African government's stance."

“South African government has obviously been on the side of Gaddafi from an ideological and historical perspective. It was inevitably going to create a foreign policy nightmare for South Africa.”

Allister Sparks, a veteran political analyst and journalist, said:

“It strikes me as absolutely absurd that while people are dancing in the streets celebrating freedom [in Libya], South Africa is resisting that. South Africa owes a lot of its freedom to foreign intervention, including the west. [This way] we end up on the wrong side, the side of tyrants.”

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