The 53-member African Union says the international community must work to avoid a military confrontation with Iraq. The statement was included in the final communique of the African Union summit in Addis Ababa.
The African leaders are deeply concerned about the economic repercussions a war against Iraq would have on the continent. In their joint declaration, the heads of state emphasized that the international community should pursue all diplomatic means to make Iraq comply with U.N. Resolution 1441.
The resolution demands that Iraq turn over its weapons of mass destruction or face "serious consequences."
The African Union statement says a Gulf War would bring far-reaching economic consequences for all countries in Africa, whose economies depend heavily on oil from the Middle East
The chairman of the African Union, South African President Thabo Mbeki, said a decision about whether to go to war should be made by the U.N. Security Council, not the United States. "There must be respect for this multilateral institution and an avoidance of unilateral action," the South African president said.
Mr. Mbeki would not say what action the African Union may take if the United States launches an attack without a second U.N. resolution to authorize the use of force in Iraq. The United States has repeatedly said that if Iraq does not disarm through U.N. inspections, it will act militarily with a coalition to remove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein from power.
Also at the summit, South Africa announced it is sending a special mission to Baghdad in an effort to persuade Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein to reveal his alleged illegal weapons programs.