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African leaders stress challenge of peace in Cote d'Ivoire and Iraq

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ADDIS ABABA, 3 February (IRIN) - South African President Thabo Mbeki on Monday urged African leaders to use their influence to resolve the crisis in Iraq.
Addressing the first extraordinary summit of the African Union, he called on heads of state to wield pressure through the UN's Security Council to ensure a peaceful resolution to the crisis.

He also told the continent's leaders they had a duty to impoverished Africans whose lives had been destroyed by war.

"In particular, we continue to be confronted by the challenge of peace and stability on our continent," he said. "Events in this regard have emphasised the need for us urgently to constitute the Peace and Security Council on which we have already decided."

He said it was "imperative" that the 53 countries which make up the AU back the plans, ahead of the next AU summit in Maputo, Mozambique.

His call for peace was echoed by AU interim head Amara Essy who said that the Ivory Coast crisis was "of grave concern". He added that the various conflicts in Africa were "extremely distressing".

Meanwhile, Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi declared that only African unity would enable the continent to escape its dire poverty.

He told the opening ceremony that the continent faced a continuous "life and death" struggle to overcome the enormous challenges.

"Nothing short of the strongest unity among African countries will do for us to overcome the challenges we face," he told some 25 African leaders assembled in the Ethiopian capital.

Earlier he joined South African President Thabo Mbeki and interim AU head Amara Essy to inaugurate a new US $11 million conference centre at the headquarters of the AU.

[ENDS]

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