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South Africa not assisting Gaddafi to exit: minister

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - South Africa is not facilitating Muammar Gaddafi's exit from Libya after rebels swept into Tripoli and knows that the Libyan leader will not seek asylum in the southern African country, Foreign Minister Maite Nkoana-Mashabane said on Monday.

Nkoana-Mashabane also denied at a media briefing in Johannesburg that South Africa had sent aircraft to Libya for Gaddafi's exit and said Gaddafi's current whereabouts are not known.

"Should we start speculating if he is going to ask for asylum in South Africa? No, we will not speculate because we know, yes for sure, that he will not ask to come here," Nkoana-Mashabane told reporters.

"I am quite amazed that there is even an insinuation that we are facilitating the exit of anyone," she added.

South African President Jacob Zuma has spearheaded a mediation effort by the African Union but two personal visits to Libya by the South African leader this year failed to produce a tangible outcome.

Zuma has been critical of NATO air strikes on Libya saying the United Nations resolution authorizing intervention had been abused.

South Africa will not recognize a rebel government at this time. "As far as we are concerned, if this government falls, there is no government," Nkoana-Mashabane said.

She said widespread speculation that South Africa had sent aircraft to Libya was untrue.

"The South African government would like to refute and dispel the rumors that it has sent planes to Libya to fly individuals to some undisclosed locations or South Africa."

(Reporting by Jon Herskovitz; Editing by Marius Bosch)

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