The African Union (AU) recognised the National Transitional Council (NTC) as Libya's de facto government on Tuesday, removing another piece of diplomatic support for ousted leader Muammar Gaddafi.

The pan-African body, which has frequently been criticised for its ponderous reaction to events on its doorstep, said in a statement it was ready to support the NTC in its efforts to build an inclusive government.

It also urged the NTC to protect African migrant workers following reports of black Africans being targeted by militia units hunting down mercenaries loyal to Gaddafi.

As of August 22, most European nations, the United States and Nigeria had recognised the NTC, while China official acknowledged the Benghazi-based group as Libya's ruling authority on September 12.

The AU's switch was likely to bring a modicum of pressure to bear on long-standing leaders such as Zimbabwe's Robert Mugabe, who expelled Libya's ambassador at the end of August after he switched allegiance from Gaddafi to the NTC.