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African Leaders Discuss Regional Cooperation With UN Security Council

Leaders from African Union and U.N. Security Council member states are meeting in New York to discuss ways they can enhance cooperation in the fields of peace and security. From United Nations headquarters in New York, VOA's Margaret Besheer has more on the high-level meeting.

Wednesday's meeting was convened by South Africa, which holds the Security Council's rotating presidency this month. In opening remarks, President Thabo Mbeki said the availability of resources remains the most serious constraint limiting Africa's ability to assist in peacekeeping and resolving its own conflicts.

"The issue of funding of regional peacekeeping operations is central to defining and streamlining the relationship between the U.N. and AU," Mbeki said.

He welcomed a proposal from U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to establish a panel of distinguished persons from the U.N., AU and other relevant actors, to consider ways to finance and support peacekeeping missions undertaken by regional organizations.

Secretary-General Ban attended the meeting and told participants that the United Nations and African Union must step up efforts to bring peace and stability to Darfur and Somalia. He said the partnership between the African Union and United Nations on this front is crucial.

"Preventing and resolving conflict peacefully must remain high on the shared agenda of the AU and the U.N.," Ban Ki-moon said.

In this context, he also welcomed the announcement of the new government in Kenya, and urged all sides to stay committed to resolving the longer-term causes of recent post-election unrest.

The debate focused on ways to strengthen cooperation between the United Nations and regional organizations, in particular the African Union, in the areas of conflict prevention, resolution and management. A Security Council resolution is expected at the end of the day-long meeting addressing the issue of resources for the African Union when it carries out the work of the Security Council in places such as Somalia and Darfur.

Twenty-one African nations are attending Wednesday's meeting, as well as representatives from the 15 member states of the U.N. Security Council. Among those present were the presidents of South Africa, Tanzania, Ivory Coast and the DRC, and the Prime Ministers of Britain, Italy and Ethiopia.