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West African Leaders Meet in Abuja to Discuss Regional Crises

Nigeria's Acting President Goodluck Jonathan in Abuja (November 2009 file photo)

West African leaders are meeting in the Nigerian capital, Abuja, to discuss recent crises in Niger, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Togo. The one-day summit will also appoint a new chairman to replace Nigeria's ailing President Umaru Yar'Adua.

Speaking at the opening session, Nigeria's acting President Goodluck Jonathan regretted the suspension of Guinea and Niger from the 15-member regional bloc and offered Nigeria's help in resolving their political crises.

"Let me restate our firm commitment to assisting both Guinea and Niger in restoring constitutional order in their respective countries in the not-too-distant future," Mr. Jonathan said.

Niger and Guinea were suspended by ECOWAS for subverting democracy. Nigeria's acting president also warned about the growing trend of drug trafficking in the region, describing it as a potentially massive problem that has to be dealt with now.

"Still on the political front is the emerging concern within our sub-region of a new unholy alliance between drug trafficking and terrorism," Mr. Jonathan said. "This we must all collectively rise to address at this incipient stage."

The session is expected to appoint a successor to Nigeria's President Umaru Yar'Adua, who has been receiving treatment in Saudi Arabia since November.

ECOWAS Commission President Mohammed Ibn Chambas is also stepping down after nine years as head of the regional bloc.