Roundup: AU summit opens in Libya as UN chief calls for efforts to fight conflicts, poverty

Heads of state and government as well as their representatives attended Monday in Sirte the 5th summit of the African Union (AU) as UN Secretary General Kofi Annan urged efforts to fight conflicts and poverty in the continent.

In a speech at the opening ceremony of the summit, Annan called upon Africa to accelerate the pace toward the fulfillment of UN- sponsored development goals.

Saying Africa was lagging behind the rest of the developing world in achieving the Millennium Development Goals, the top UN official called for "true breakthroughs" on aid, debt and trade.

"Africa can achieve the Goals by 2015, if the long-promised global partnership is truly mobilized. No new promises are needed to make this happen -- just follow-through on existing ones," he said.

According to a UN report released in June, Africa fell behind the schedule of the Millennium Development Goals, which was agreed by all UN member states in 2000 aiming at halving the 1 billion people living with extreme poverty and hunger in the world, reversing the spread of AIDS and malaria and providing basic education by 2015.

The report said the number of people living on less than one dollar a day in sub-Saharan Africa rose by 86 million from 1990 to 313 million in 2001. About 33 percent of people in sub-Saharan Africa experience chronic hunger.

Annan also urged the AU to play a bigger role in stamping out conflicts on the continent and peacekeeping.

"I commend the African Union for its leadership in tackling African security challenges," he said, adding that he would continue to advocate greater international support for the AU in achieving security on the continent where about half of the world's armed conflicts take place and almost 80 percent of UN peacekeepers are deployed.

Meanwhile, in his speech at the summit, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi urged the African countries to be united, saying "African countries should be united, but they are not necessary to lose sovereignty."

While calling for the establishment of a single currency, a single monetary union and a common market in Africa to realize financial unity of the continent, Gaddafi also pointed out "Africa is a rich continent and Africans should use these resources wisely. " Begging will not help Africa, he added.

During the summit, international organizations' leaders such as Secretary General of the Arab League Amre Moussa and European Commission President Jose Manuel Baroso also expressed their support to the AU.

Moussa said the Arab League will always support the AU in solving the problems in Africa, such as those in Sudan and Somalia.

In addition, he urged the two organizations to develop closer relations, especially in the field of economy.

Baroso, in his speech, said the European Union will take measures to strengthen its ties with the AU in three areas, namely the governance, inter-connection and trade.

During the two-day summit, which is scheduled to end on Tuesday, African leaders are expected to discuss issues like regional conflicts in Africa, the continent's development and debt cancellation, Libya's proposal on AU construction as well as the UN reform.

The AU, modeled on the European Union, was launched in 2002 as a successor to the Organization of African Unity.

Source: Xinhua

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