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African Union Summit Tackles Conflicts on Continent

African leaders at a summit in Gabon are trying to find breakthroughs to stop the three major conflicts remaining on the continent - in Ivory Coast, in Sudan's western Darfur region, and in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.

Long-time Gabonese President Omar Bongo opened the two-day summit in Libreville by saying the three conflicts are undermining growth throughout Africa.

About a dozen heads of state are attending the African Union Peace and Security Council meeting, including a surprise arrival, Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo.

South African President Thabo Mbeki, who has been mediating the Ivory Coast crisis since violence erupted for several days in November, was also present.

The current head of the African body, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, praised his work.

"Definitely a step has been made. I want also to thank President Gbagbo and all the members of the Ivorian national assembly and all the leaders of the rebels and the other side for the restraint they have exercised and for the positive steps they have taken and for the collaboration and the cooperation they have given to President Thabo Mbeki," he said.

But Ivory Coast opposition leaders outside the meeting hall distributed a document alleging Mr. Gbagbo was preparing a return to war. They also called for sanctions to be imposed against him and his supporters, accusing them of blocking implementation of successive peace deals.

Mr. Gbagbo has called for rebels to disarm immediately.

President Obasanjo said renewed tensions in the D.R.C and intensified fighting in Darfur are also of grave concern.

The African Union has been trying to become more assertive in ending African wars, but many diplomats at the summit said African states lack funds and equipment to carry out this mandate.