The emphasis will be on development and peacemaking when African heads of state and international officials gather in Dar Es Salaam,Tanzania, this weekend.

The two-day meeting, which begins Friday, is called the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region. It includes member countries of the region itself ? such as the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi and Rwanda ? and countries with political and economic interest in the area, including Nigeria, Zambia, Namibia, and Mozambique. Besides heads of state like Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo, top diplomats ? including un secretary general kofi annan -- are also expected to attend. Providing financial and technical support for the conference are 10 organizations and 28 countries ? including Canada and the Netherlands -- known as the Friends of the Great Lakes.

George Ola Davis is a spokesman for the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for the Great Lakes Region. He says the conference will focus on the need to create regional instruments to curb violence ? and encourage peacemaking and regional integration. Among them is a proposal to work to prevent armed groups from establishing bases for attack against a given country from a neighboring state. Conference representatives are also discussing regional approaches to improving the rule of law, women?s rights and health issues such as combating HIV / AIDS, malaria, and other pandemic diseases.