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UN:  Nigeria, Cameroon Agree on Confidence-Building Measures - 2002-11-15

United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan says the leaders of Nigeria and Cameroon have agreed on confidence-building measures to help resolve their dispute over an oil-rich peninsula that is claimed by both countries. Mr. Annan held talks with the two leaders in Geneva.

U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan called his meetings with Cameroonian President Paul Biya and Nigerian President Olusegun Obansanjo a very good beginning to resolving the dispute over Bakassi peninsula.

"We made a good advance," he said. "I think we have to accept that this is a complex issue and it is going to take good will and lots of hard work from both sides and all of us to work to put it in motion. I am very, very encouraged by the two meetings we have had, the good will of the two leaders and their determination to resolve this issue peacefully and I am sure we will be able to do that."

Mr. Annan said he was setting up a U.N. commission to encourage confidence-building measures between the two countries, including troop withdrawals from the border area and eventual demilitarization of the peninsula.

The commission will also examine the ruling by the International Court of Justice that upheld Cameroon's claim to the peninsula in the Gulf of Guinea.

The court, the U.N.'s highest judicial body, has agreed with Cameroon that it had been granted the territory in a 1913 treaty between German and British colonial powers in West Africa. Nigeria argues that the ruling is invalid because it considers the colonial treaty illegitimate.

President Obasanjo says he is committed to continued talks to reach a solution.

"Nigeria has neither rejected nor accepted," he said. "And the purpose of this meeting is to find the way forward and we are finding the way forward."

The 665-kilometer Bakassi peninsula brought the two countries to the brink of war in 1981 and has been the source of repeated clashes since then. It is an area so rich in oil reserves that it is often viewed as a future alternative to the Persian Gulf as a major oil supplier.