Gaddafi and Mbeki fight over African parliament

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The Independent Online

A diplomatic row between Libya and South Africa over who should host the Pan African Parliament threatens to ruin this weekend's annual summit of African leaders in Mozambique.

The parliament is a key feature of the African Union (AU) founded by African leaders last year to foster economic and political co-

operation. It is modelled on the European Parliament.

Diplomats say the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, wants the parliament to be in his home town of Sirte. Thabo Mbeki, the South African President, wants it to be permanently based in Cape Town because Libya has no history of democratic parliamentary standards.

Colonel Gaddafi has bought support for his plans to host the parliament by paying the subscriptions of many poor states to the AU. After his dream of leading a "United States of Africa" failed, Colonel Gaddafi is determined to keep influence on the continent by hosting the parliament, which he

believes would bring his country world attention.

Another conflict between him and Mr Mbeki centres on the appointment of a new AU commission chairman, who will run the union's day-to-day affairs.

Colonel Gaddafi favours Amara Essy, the former Ivory Coast foreign minister who has been acting chairman since last year. Colonel Gaddafi angered Mr Mbeki by giving Mr Essy a jet in which to fly around Africa canvassing support for his candidature before the start of the AU summit, which began in Maputo yesterday.

Mr Mbeki wants the former Malian president Alpha Konare to take over. The South African leader believes the AU needs the leadership of a well-respected statesman and former head of state with democratic credentials if it is to be taken seriously by rich countries.

Mr Mbeki, the Nigerian President, Olusegun Obas-anjo, and others who helped to found the AU and its economic renewal programme, the New Partnership for Africa Development (Nepad), are reportedly eager to rein in Colonel Gaddafi and retain the credibility of the AU.

AU structures, modelled on those of the EU, will need external funding, particularly from the G8 countries, if they are to succeed. African leaders know this assistance will be difficult to get if the AU's credibility is compromised by letting Colonel Gaddafi host its institutions.