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African Union Tackles Conflicts, Disease

Two dozen African leaders are finishing up a two-day African Union summit in Abuja, Nigeria - tackling conflict, poverty, disease and failure to meet development goals.

Early Monday, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo stressed leaders were moving in a positive direction, despite the challenges and obstacles Africa faces.

"We have tackled conflict situations with courage; invested heavily in infrastructure, capacity-building and reconstruction," he said. "We have attracted home a sizable number of our professionals, taken a clear position against illegal or extra-legal seizure of power. We have, above all, said goodbye to coups and counter-coups and sustained democratic practices and institutions."

Themes of the summit include ensuring food security, combating AIDS and malaria more effectively and reducing illiteracy.

African Union spokesman Desmond Orjiako told VOA it is essential leaders contain conflicts.

"There's no way a country can develop without peace and security and this is the essence of talking about conflict resolution," he said. "They examined the conflict in Darfur, in the Democratic Republic of Congo in relation to Rwanda and the conflict in Cote d'Ivoire. All these have been given special attention because if they are not properly managed they could escalate into a very dangerous situation and that we do not want to happen. So we are applying carrot and stick measures to bring about peace on the continent."

On the issue of delegating permanent African seats on a possibly expanded U.N. Security Council, Mr. Orjiako said leaders decided to let a 15-member committee decide within the next month.

"People have been dissuaded from jostling for who occupies these positions because we don't have it as yet," he said. "We are still negotiating and these important negotiations come first. When we get it we will go home in Africa and then decide who gets what."

The leaders of Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt have all been lobbying for a permanent seat to better defend the interests of Africa within the world body.