The annual summit of the Southern Africa Development Community has concluded in the Tanzanian capital, Dar es Salaam.

One of the top priorities for the southern African leaders was how to combat the spread of HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Fourteen-million of the region's 208 million population are believed to be infected.

Summit secretary Prega Ramsamy told VOA that the leaders approved a strategic plan to respond to all facets of the pandemic.

"We are going to establish a regional fund to implement the strategic framework," said Mr. Ramsamy. "Second, we have looked at the priority areas which includes access to care, testing and treatment, prevention and social mobilization, resource mobilization, monitoring and evaluation."

Most countries in region have applied to the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS-related funding, and they hope also to share in the $15 billion promised by President Bush to help combat AIDS.

However, the Global Fund has not yet been fully funded, and U.S. legislators have not yet agreed to fund Mr. Bush's AIDS fund.

The regional leaders also signed a mutual defense pact, which foresees the creation of a regional defense force to respond to security crises in the region.

Meanwhile, the leaders privately urged Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe to engage in negotiations with his political opponents. Publicly, they called on the international community to end sanctions against Mr. Mugabe, his family and the ruling elite in his country.