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West, Central Africa Leaders Seek Strategies Against Terrorism

Security experts and officials from nations across West and Central Africa say they will try to improve communication between their countries and with the United Nations in order to better assess and fight terrorism within their borders. Representatives from 23 nations met in Dakar this week to discuss how a better flow of information will help battle terrorism as well as the region's escalating drug trade problem. Kari Barber reports for VOA from Dakar.

Foreign Affairs representative for Equatorial Guinea Hermenegildo Ondo Nsono says he is concerned even his tiny island country could be the target of a terrorist attack.

He says he hopes that by sharing information with the U.N.'s terrorism and drug-control arm, the oil-rich nation can keep its borders secure and keep out illegal drugs.

The drug trade has been on the rise in West Africa particularly in the small, poverty-stricken nation of Guinea-Bissau, which experts say, has become a key transit point for international trafficking.

U.N. experts at the conference say part of the difficulty in sharing information is poor infrastructure throughout the region and a lack of personnel in many countries where even paying civil servant salaries is a struggle.

A magistrate in Gabon, Marie-Anne Mboga, says fighting terrorism, drug trade and weapons trafficking represent overlapping concerns. She says countries should adopt laws to give the governments more ability to control borders and investigate possible threats.

Mboga says Gabon officials are concerned by the number of undocumented foreigners that pass in and out of their borders.

Vienna-based U.N. terrorism prevention expert Piera Barzano says it is difficult to implement this kind of active surveillance in the region where poverty is acute and where many countries are still wracked from recent civil wars.

"It demands a lot of work for states that might not always have the human and economic resources to devote to this exercise," she said.

But she says the countries seem very willing to participate with the U.N.'s efforts.

Security experts have long warned that the region's porous borders and lack of security could create a welcome terrain for terrorist groups.