France backs 'political solutions' in Libya crisis
ADDIS ABABA - France vowed Sunday it would work with the African Union to find "political solutions" to the Libya crisis, but insisted that the ouster of Libyan leader Moamer Gathafi was a "key point".
"We ... are delighted to say that in Malabo, the summit of the African Union delivered a public statement which is closer (to) the position of France and the coalition than before," Alain Juppe told reporters in Addis Ababa.
"We agreed that we must now find a political outcome to the situation in Libya and this solution implies a genuine ceasefire and also an inclusive national dialogue between all the parties," Juppe said.
"The key point is the withdrawal of Gathafi from power, from his military and civilian responsibilities and we agreed to work all together to reach this goal," Juppe added.
At its Malabo summit earlier this month the 53-nation African Union was unable to take a position on the future of the Libyan leader, which is a key sticking point between the two sides.
Libyan rebels have flatly rejected an AU peace plan because they said it would leave Gathafi in power.
Juppe spoke to the press in English, after meeting in Addis Ababa with the deputy chairperson of the AU Commission Erastus Mwencha and the commissioner for peace and security Ramtane Lamamra.
Asked about the strikes launched on Libya by a NATO-led alliance, Juppe insisted the countries part of this alliance were "acting in the legal framework (of the UN resolution) and we think that we fully respect this legal framework".
"We will continue the military pressure with our partners, our allies, with the support of the contact group," Juppe added.
In June, France came under fire by some members of the AU for supplying Libyan rebels with weapons and ammunition, a move critics say flies in the face of UN Resolution 1970, which calls for an arms embargo on Libya.
On South Sudan, Juppe said France supports the establishment of a state administration and functioning infrastructure in Africa's newest nation.
France will also back the development of the country's oil industry, South Sudan's key economic asset.
On Saturday, French President Nicolas Sarkozy officially recognised the independence of South Sudan.
Juppe confirmed that France fully supports the International Criminal Court's indictment of Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.
The state of Sudan "belongs to the people", he said, hoping that "democratic rule, a democratic state and rule of law will be respected in the future".
Juppe was in South Sudan for independence celebrations on Saturday before arriving in Ethiopia, where he met with Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi.
In June, Ethiopia and France signed an economic cooperation agreement worth $590 million for water and energy projects in the country, including a scheme to sell power to neighbouring Kenya.