Libya endorses unified African parliament

By AL-SADEQ AL-TARHOUNI  |  July 20, 2002 at 3:16 PM
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TRIPOLI, Libya, July 20 (UPI) -- Libya's General People's Conference, the country's legislature, endorsed a protocol Saturday to unify the parliaments of the African Union.

The vote came following remarks of Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, one of the newly formed AU's strongest proponents, who said Africans unified would be able to take on such world powers as the United States. The 53-member AU, formally created earlier this month in Durban, South Africa, "will be in confrontation with America regarding Lockerbie," he said, referring to the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. A Libyan man has been convicted for his role in the attack.

In an emergency session, the legislative body endorsed a law that commits the North African country to a general African parliament. Along with a security and justice system as well as a central bank, a pan-African parliament is seen as one of the key steps to making the AU a continent-wide organization with the powers to back up its ambitious goal to usher Africa into world influence via responsible governance and economic clout.

Diplomatic observers outside Africa say Gadhafi has made little secret of his ambitions to base the AU in Tripoli, though its headquarters are likely to remain in those of its predecessor in Addis Ababa. Nor will he be the AU's first chairman; the seat went to South African President Thabo Mbeki. Gadhafi's comments Saturday showed he nevertheless plans to continue an active role in guiding the new organization.

Gadhafi said the convicted Lockerbie bomber was being "treated with respect and not as a criminal because of African solidarity and guarantees that Libya has provided." Libyan Abdul Baset al-Megrahi was sentenced to life in prison for the bombing, which killed all 259 people aboard and 11 Lockerbie residents when a bomb prosecutors said he planted in a suitcase exploded.

The Libyan leader spoke more broadly as well, declaring, "Anyone opposing this (AU) unity will lose. ... Hostility toward the African giant (AU) will not be in the interests of America, Europe, China or Russia."

He said the new African Union is more advanced than the European Union because the Africans had decided to set up a unified security council, which Europe has still not done.

"The future is for the new AU and China," which Gadhafi described as "similar giants." He also urged Arab countries outside Africa to "seek protection" of the African Union rather than to "continue begging."

The AU replaced the Organization of African Unity, formed in 1963 to help African countries make the transition from colonies of European powers to independent states. But with time the OAS's rules of non-interference in state affairs -- designed to respect the new African identities of former white-ruled colonies -- hampered its influence and helped earn it the nickname "the Dictator's Club."

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