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Africa-South America Summit Opens in Abuja

More than 60 heads of a state and governments are arriving in Abuja, Nigeria, for the first Africa-South America summit on Wednesday. Gilbert da Costa in Abuja reports for VOA that foreign ministers and other officials have been meeting since Sunday to prepare an agenda for the start of the talks.

Talk of cooperation between the two continents will dominate the talks in Nigeria at a time when Latin American countries such as Brazil and Venezuela are striving for a greater presence on a continent once carved up by Europe.

Already, Venezuela's President Hugo Chávez has nearly doubled the number of embassies on the continent since January 2005.

And, Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, who hosted a three-way summit recently with his South African counterpart Thabo Mbeki and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, has made five trips to the continent since coming to power in 2002.

Bilateral trade between Brazil and Africa has doubled since 2003. Nigeria also announced that its total volume of trade with Brazil reached $4.9 billion in the last year.

Akerodolu Olabanji, spokesman for the organizers, gave an insight into the agenda.

"The main issues that are likely to be discussed would include areas such as investment, investment sector, energy, natural resources, such things like that, and to sum up, co-operation itself," he said. "This is just an initial summit and the main idea is to look at how to solidify the arrangements bringing the two continents together. I think they will delve into peace and security, democracy, agro-allied sectors and so on."

Mr. Olabanji also confirmed that African leaders attending the summit will discuss the Darfur crisis on Thursday.

"One very important issue, this concerns mainly the presidents of Africa, is that the Sudan-Darfur issue that will be discussed after the closure of the summit on Thursday. That will only involve the African leaders," he said.

Conference organizers say 900 delegates from 53 African countries and 12 South American countries have confirmed their participation.

Analysts say Africa, long neglected by the rest of the world, is now attracting significant attention following recent high-profile initiatives by China and the European Union to establish closer ties.