Libya is hosting a special session of the African Union Assembly in an effort to resolve conflicts on the continent. AU chairman and Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi told the heads of states gathered for the meeting one of the greatest dangers facing the war-torn region is the presence of Israel.
Colonel Gadhafi opened the session by saying conflicts such as that in Sudan's Darfur region are internal matters, and that much of the history of African countries involve infighting over power. The Libyan leader said the African Union could help parties negotiate a solution, but that the wars pose no real danger.
In the vast hall alongside Tripoli's harbor where the meeting got underway, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court on charges of war crimes in Darfur, sat smiling. Close by, Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe rested his eyes through much of Mr. Gadhafi's speech.
But the Libyan leader warned conflicts do pose a risk if they invite international intervention. He said that other powers are eager to get at Africa's wealth and resources, and will use those wars as a pretext to intervene.
Colonel Gadhafi, who has spent his career defying commonly accepted principles, then repeated his call to oust all Israeli embassies from the continent, injecting a measure of his pan-Arab past into his pan-African present.
The head of the AU Commission, Jean Ping, offered those gathered an alternative approach to solving the continent's problems. He called for the doubling of the organization's budget for peace efforts, and a greater security role for the African Union. He also criticized LRA rebels in Uganda for what he called their stubborn resistance to negotiate, and deplored what he called "the scourge of state coups" plaguing Africa.
The heads of state then went into private discussions. Later they were invited to attend festivities marking 40 years since Colonel Gadhafi took power in a coup. The timing of the meeting, on the eve of the anniversary and just two months after the annual AU summit, as well as the massive scope of the session, have prompted some diplomats to guess little of substance would be accomplished.