Nigeria has rejected plans to host the U.S. African military command, or AFRICOM, on the continent. The government's position was announced at the end of President Umaru Yar'Adua's meeting with state governors and several of the country's leading political figures. For VOA, Gilbert da Costa reports from Abuja.

The goal of U.S. military's new Africa-wide command is to better protect America's strategic interests in Africa and assist African countries with military training and conflict prevention.

But a growing number of African countries - including Libya and South Africa - have expressed a concern over Africom's move to the continent. Many have expressed reservations that the move could signal an expansion of U.S. influence on the continent and may focus primarily on protecting oil interests.

While Nigeria has been among the most vocal of critics, this the first time that Africa's most populous nation and a top source of U.S.oil imports, has come out publicly against the plan.

On Monday, Nigerian President Umaru Yar'Adua said he is also opposed to the U.S. command establishing a presence elsewhere in West Africa.

Peter Egom, a senior research fellow at the Nigerian Institute for International Affairs, says the United States is primarily expanding its military presence in Africa to protect its interest in the region's oil resource.

He says the time has come for the United States to deepen ties with Africa.

"America does not have to come to Africa to defend her interest. American needs to have willing partners, co-operative partners, to defend American interests in Africa," said Egom.

Africom currently operates out of existing U.S. bases on the continent with a headquarters in Stuttgart, Germany. Liberia, settled by freed American slaves in the 1800s, is the only African nation that has publicly offered to host a headquarters.