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African Union Pledges Unity, Solutions

The 53-nation African Union grouping ended a two-day summit in Abuja, Nigeria, Tuesday, pledging unity on the continent, progress to combat diseases and African solutions to end conflicts.

Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, who hosted the summit, said important work had been done behind closed doors since Sunday to address challenges in development, health and security. "We have adopted a wide range of decisions and declarations, and, where necessary, we have also adopted a plan of action and follow-up mechanisms." he said. "We have also seized the opportunity of this mid-term session to review the various conflicts on the continent."

African Union-delegated mediator South African President Thabo Mbeki is expected to go to northern rebel-held Ivory Coast in the coming days to move forward the stalled peace process there.

Meanwhile, Sudan's government and rebel groups from the western Darfur region agreed to begin a new round of peace talks in Abuja next month.

Another issue, which was discussed thoroughly, according to President Obasanjo, was on filling African seats in a possibly expanded United Nations Security Council. "It was perhaps thought that the issue would prove to be divisive and rancorous," he said. "However, during our interactive discussions we considered the issue frankly and exhaustively, in a friendly and brotherly atmosphere."

A 15-member committee was appointed to study the possible allotment of two permanent Security Council seats for Africa. Nigeria, Egypt and South Africa are the leading candidates.

The closing ceremony was canceled after Mr. Obasanjo's speech, as most heads of state had already left Abuja.