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Libya Renews Call for United States of Africa

A pre-summit meeting of African foreign ministers has opened with a Libyan call for prompt action to realize Moammar Gadhafi's dream of a continental federation. Ministers are preparing for a summit of African leaders beginning Sunday.

Libyan Foreign Minister Moussa Koussa told the African Union Executive Council the organization must redouble efforts to create a federation, which he called the United States of Africa.

When he was elected AU chairman a year ago, Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi said he would use his one-year term to further his dream of a continental government.

He outlined a plan for a federation that would have a single African military force, a single currency and a single passport for Africans to move freely around the continent.

The concept of a united Africa is a generally agreed goal among AU member states, but most leaders appear to favor a go-slow approach. Libya's foreign minister Koussa, speaking in Arabic, said Mr. Gaddafi wants to see a radical transformation of the union soon.

He says the current organization is not compatible with the concept of a United States of Africa, so we need to place these structures within an authority to make it a tool for the goals we are setting.

African diplomats say Mr. Gadhafi is hoping to win a second term as AU chairman because not enough progress in creating a powerful continental authority to replace the current AU Commission structure.

Africa's heads of state are to meet in closed session Sunday to decide whether to give the Libyan leader another year or to continue the tradition of regional rotation, by which Malawi's President Bingu wa Mutarika would take over the chairmanship.

Meanwhile, the Council of Ministers faces a daunting agenda before heads of state arrive, including difficult questions on conflicts and unconstitutional changes of government.

Wednesday, an AU international contact group on Guinea ordered the country's military junta to hold elections within six months. Guinea has been suspended from AU membership since a December, 2008 military coup.

AU Peace and Security Commissioner Ramtane Lamamra says Africa's trouble spots always seem to dominate summit discussions.

"The heads of state will devote much attention to Somalia, to Sudan, to the Great Lakes region, as well as to the unconstitutional changes of government; Madagascar and Guinea," said Lamamra. "So with that I think they will have a lot to exchange and very action-oriented guidance to the Commission so we can proceed in the months to come and achieve positive outcomes," he said.

The summit will also give approval to a $201 million budget for the coming year, including $77 million for development and $30 million for peace and security.

The budget represents a 25-percent increase over last year's $162 million, but AU experts say that is explained by the inclusion for the first time of peace and security activities in the total. In real terms, spending levels will remain about the same.

Member state contributions account for about two-thirds of the budget. Foreign donors provide the other third.