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|Tuesday, July 10, 2001, updated at 08:42(GMT+8)|
New OAU Chairman Stresses Importance of Regional IntegrationZambian President Frederick Chiluba Monday called on the Organization of African Unity (OAU) and all African countries to pay more importance of regional integration to the role played by regional economic groups on the continent.
Addressing the opening ceremony of the 37th OAU summit, Chiluba said regional economic cooperation is vital to the success of building blocks for both the OAU and the African Union (AU), as they are like building blocks for constructing a mansion.
"With the ongoing unprecedented acceleration of technological change and the consequences of globalization with its attendant competitiveness, regional economic cooperation assumes even greater importance and urgency," said Chiluba, who has taken over as OAU chairman from Togolese President Gnassingbe Eyadema.
The ongoing summit is expected to transform the OAU into the AU, a more integrated pan-African body to include an assembly, an executive council, a pan-African parliament and a central bank.
The AU, modeled on the European Union, is a brainchild of Libyan leader Muammar Ghaddafi, who initiated the plan at an extraordinary summit held in his hometown of Sirte on September 9, 1999.
The African leaders are also to finalize the African Initiative, a combination of the Millennium African Recovery Plan put forward by South African President Thabo Mbeki and the Omega plan initiated by Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade which is designed to open the African market as a whole.
Among the topics the leaders are to discuss include a series of issues concerning the continent's political, economic and social development, regional conflicts, the HIV/AIDS pandemic and the mountainous debt burden.
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