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EU, AU Leaders Stress Equal Partnership, Inclusiveness Ahead of Summit


European Union and African Union officials are meeting in Ghana's capital Accra Wednesday to set the agenda for a joint summit in Lisbon, Portugal later this year. The summit has stirred controversy as governments wrangle over whether Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe should be invited. Kari Barber reports from VOA's regional bureau in Dakar.

European Union officials say invitations to the EU-AU summit will be sent out in the coming days. And, they say, President Robert Mugabe, who has been accused of human rights abuses and economic mismanagement, will be invited.

There were concerns that a disagreement over Mr. Mugabe's attendance could torpedo the conference, scheduled for December. Last month, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said he would not attend the summit if Mr. Mugabe attends.

But EU and AU leaders moved forward Wednesday as they met in Accra to set a conference agenda.

Journalist Kwafi Kpodo attended the meeting. He says leaders at the planning meeting stressed the need for the European Union and the African Union to make the conference happen and to work toward common goals.

"The Ghanian foreign minister and the Portuguese minister just exchanged determination to bring a new partnership, a very inclusive partnership to Africa," said Kpodo. "So the nature of the partnership they want is equal partners and not anyone having the upper hand."

Analysts say the EU may be seeking to strengthen ties with Africa as China's economic influence on the continent grows.

Prosper Addo, researcher at the Accra-based Kofi Annan Center, says the relationship between the EU and the AU has been helpful for Africa in some areas - such as bolstering AU peacekeeping efforts like the one in Darfur. But, he says, the relationship should develop beyond providing aid and assistance.

"These partnerships should be seen on an equal status," he said. "And also if it is possible that ways and means are developed to make the continent a bit independent so that we do not always go begging, begging, begging. Perhaps that should also be the way that we are going."

Addo says the impact of decisions made at the summit will depend on how African leaders implement them.

"For all these efforts to really bear fruit a lot will depend on leaders once again," he said. "I am just hoping and praying that decisions that will be made will be taken in good faith. But that the Africa person, that man walking on the street, really should be at the mind of our leaders."

Topics expected to be discussed at the Lisbon summit include climate change, energy, and how African countries can reach development goals.

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