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France's Sarkozy: Africa Should Have Permanent Seat on UN Security Council

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French President Nicolas Sarkozy said Africa must have a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council. The French president spoke at the opening of the 25th Africa-France summit in Nice.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy evoked Africa's critical place in the world in a vigorous speech opening the two-day Nice summit between French and African leaders.

Mr. Sarkozy said it was no longer important to tackle the big questions in the world without Africa's presence. He said if Africa failed it would have widespread repercussions -- and be dramatic for Europe, in particular.

The French president also said it was impossible to manage the 21st century with the instruments from the 20th. He said Africa must have a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council - and he would push for this when France heads the G8 and G20 groups next year.

Climate change, peace and security in Africa are all on the Nice agenda. The summit's co-chair, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt, emphasized the importance of Africa's development.

Mr. Mubarak said African countries need to emphasize agriculture production and management of water resources.

This Africa-France summit focuses particularly on business issues, notably, improving Africa's economic presence in the world, and French business interests on the continent.

In an interview with VOA, Prime Minister Raila Odinga of Kenya, also discussed the need to tackle corruption in Africa. But he suggested the issue was better tackled among African countries themselves, rather than at an international summit.

"We believe this is not just an issue to be discussed at a forum like this," he said. "The governments themselves must see to it, individually. And the African Union must be talking more about issues of corruption in Africa."

Heads of state or government from nearly 40 African countries are in Nice for the summit. Algerian President Abdelaziz Bouteflika is here, marking a possible upturn in strained French-Algerian ties. But the presidents of Sudan and Zimbabwe were not invited because of their controversial reputations. Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir has an international arrest warrant out for him. Mr. Odinga, for one, said France was right not to have invited them.

"I think it is wrong to invite someone like Bashir here - I don't think he was invited," he said. "It's wrong to invite Mugabe. I'm told happily he's not. I'm told [Zimbabwe's Prime Minister] Morgan Tsvangirai is here. Which is right."

This two-day Nice summit is one of several events hosted by the French government that gives Africa a top billing this year. African leaders are also invited to July 14 Bastille Day celebrations that will feature French and African troops marching down the Champs Elysees in Paris.

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