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African Leaders to Tackle Conflicts, Health at AU Summit


African leaders are arriving in Nigeria to take part in a two-day African Union summit, starting Sunday, focusing on war and disease.

Some of the African leaders have already taken part in a business forum to promote the private sector and exchange ideas on establishing a Pan-African stock exchange.

The summit of the 53-nation body will focus more on ending conflicts. African Union peacekeeping troops are being suggested both for Sudan's war-wracked Darfur region and for the restive Rwandan-Congolese border area, but the organization's logistical and financial limits could prevent this.

Concerning the other major trouble spot, Ivory Coast, the United Nations Security Council abided by an African Union request to delay a vote initially scheduled for late Friday on reinforcing sanctions.

So far, an arms embargo is already in place against both the government and rebel forces, but it's unclear whether the army will be allowed to repair destroyed fighter jets and helicopter gunships.

Government and rebel leaders are also under threat of travel and financial sanctions.

The executive secretary of the Economic Community of West African States, Mohammad Ibn Chambas, says it's important African Union-appointed mediator Thabo Mbeki push forward the stalled peace process in Ivory Coast.

"We can have the necessary constitutional amendments that have been called for and also so that disarmament can take place so that the elections ultimately that will be all inclusive will take place in an atmosphere that is free and fair and produce elections that will be credible in October of this year," said Mr. Chambas.

A top African Union coordinator, Margaret Vogt, says health matters will also be discussed at the summit.

"There's going to be debate by the heads of state on health issues,” she noted. “HIV/AIDS is one of the most important, but also malaria, tuberculosis and poliomyelitis, these debates will take place on the second day of the summit."

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan is also due to take part in the summit before going on to talks in Cameroon on the potentially oil-rich Bakassi peninsula, which Nigeria has been slow to hand over despite agreeing to do so.

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