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IN THE NEWS – March 1, 2003: Africa-France Summit - 2003-02-28

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program In the News.

This year’s Africa-France Summit was the largest ever held. Fifty-two African countries were represented at the meeting in Paris last week. All but ten were represented by a head of state or government. Somalia was the only country in Africa not invited. Somalia does not have a recognized government.

Iraq was a major issue during the Africa-France Summit. The leaders approved a declaration against any rush to military action in Iraq. Their declaration said disarming that country is the shared goal of the international community. The document called for the use of force only if all other methods fail.

The leaders said a war in Iraq would cause serious problems in the Middle East, Africa and the world. They expressed support for the United Nations weapons inspection process in Iraq. They called for those inspections to continue.

France is one of the five permanent members of the U-N Security Council. The others are Britain, Russia, China and the United States. The council has fifteen members in all. A permanent member can veto any resolution. That would include the new one sought by the United States and Britain to clear the way for war. However, a resolution can also be defeated if nine members of the council vote against it.

At the Africa-France summit were leaders from three non-permanent members of the Security Council. The votes of Cameroon, Angola and Guinea could be important to French efforts to prevent a war in Iraq.

This was the twenty-second Africa-France Summit held since nineteen-seventy-three. The top issues at the meeting were peace and security in Africa, development and the fight against international terrorism. Last year's meeting was held in Cameroon.

France organizes the summit to discuss issues affecting African countries. France was a colonial ruler in Africa and still has influence on the continent. France promised renewed political and economic cooperation with Africa. The delegates discussed an economic rescue plan developed by African leaders.

Other issues discussed included the AIDS crisis. U-N Secretary General Kofi Annan announced a new high-level committee to help prevent the spread of the disease in Africa.

The leaders also discussed the war in Ivory Coast and repression in Zimbabwe. France dismissed criticism about its decision to invite Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe. He attended even though the European Union has ordered a travel ban against him.

The president of Ivory Coast was invited but did not attend. That country has had civil war since September. France urged the warring groups to honor a French-led peace agreement. The war has wrecked the economy in Ivory Coast and threatened peace in West Africa.

This VOA Special English program, In The News, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.