South African President
Jacob Zuma on Sunday severely criticized the NATO mission in Libya and warned against assassinating leader Moamer Gaddafi, dpa reported.
Expressing concern over the "continuing bombing by NATO and its allies," he said the United Nations resolution that mandated the airstrikes to implement a no-fly zone was aimed at protecting civilians.
"The intention was not to authorize a campaign for regime change or political assassination," Zuma told a meeting of the African Union (AU) in Pretoria called to discuss the conflict in Libya.
Zuma has led two AU delegations to Libya. Both diplomatic efforts failed to produce a ceasefire agreement between the regime and Libyan rebels, who want Gaddafi to step down after 42 years in power.
Zuma's last mediating mission in May ended with the government and rebels entrenched in their positions.
Zuma said that in spite of efforts to broker peace, the crisis in Libya was escalating.
"On the ground, there is a military stalemate which we cannot and must not be allowed to drag on and on, both because of its horrendous cost in civilian lives and the potential it has to destabilize the entire sub-region," he said.
Ever defiant, Gaddafi has vowed to defeat NATO as the military alliance continues bombing sites in the capital Tripoli and other regime strongholds.