The president of South Africa, Jacob Zuma, has urged Moammar Qaddafi to immediately cease all acts of violence against his people, according to Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane.

“Gaddafi called our president, needlessly, to try and explain his side of the story,” Nkoana-Mashabane told reporters in Pretoria. “We took advantage of that call by Gaddafi, through our president, to tell him how we abhor this heinous violation of human rights against his own people.”

Nkoana-Mashabane noted that South Africa co-sponsored all resolutions against Libya that were adopted by the United Nations Security Council and led a campaign to suspend Libya from the UN Human Rights Council.

She added that South Africa has blocked previous attempts by Gaddafi to be appointed as permanent head of the 53-nation African Union and to establish a United States of Africa.

There was controversy and confusion earlier over press reports that when Zuma spoke to Gaddafi by the phone, he consoled he Libyan leader.

Also, Libyan TV quoted Zuma as calling on the African Union (AU) to take decisive action and uncover the conspiracy that [Libyan] is facing.

Jeremy Cronin, South African Deputy Minister of Transport, emphasized that the phone call was initiated by Gaddafi and not Zuma.

President Zuma very definitely said that we condemn the violence, the violence must end and we as South Africa support the United Nations resolution, Cronin said.

Zuma and Gaddafi have a well documented history. When Zuma was dismissed from the South African cabinet by then president Thabo Mbeki, he visited Gaddafi in Libya.

There have also been widely circulated reports that Gaddafi helped Zuma pay for legal costs related to trials he underwent on charges of fraud , corruption and of rape.

Zuma’s office issued a statement that it would not be drawn into rumors and distortions of the conversation with Gaddafi, who had called to explain his side of the story. President Zuma has spoken out clearly on the Libyan question. South Africa has openly condemned the loss of life and attacks on civilians and reported violations of human rights in Libya. The country supports the positions taken by the AU and the UN on Libya. There has never been any ambiguity about the position of President Zuma or the country. “