Ahmadinejad arrives in Gambia to attend 7th AU summit

Iran Materials 30 June 2006 12:23 (UTC +04:00)

(IRNA) - Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad arrived here on Friday at the head of a diplomatic delegation to take part at the seventh African Union (AU) summit.

Gambian President Yahya Jammeh was at Banjul International Airport to welcome his Iranian counterpart, reports Trend.

The welcoming ceremony also featured the playing of the Iranian and Gambian national anthems, the reviewing of the guard of honor by the two presidents and public joy and sentiments on the occasion of the Iranian chief executive's visit to the African state.

Ahmadinejad is visiting Gambia at the invitation of his Gambian counterpart and in response to his previous two visits to Iran.

Ministers of cooperatives and energy and head of the Cultural Heritage and Tourism Organization are accompanying Ahmadinejad during his three-day stay in Gambia.

Some 50 African leaders are going to attend the seventh AU summit from July 1 to 2 to pursue greater regional integration.

The summit in the Gambia's capital will also be attended by two non-African heads of state -- Hugo Chavez of Venezuela and Iran's Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- as well as UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

In Banjul, the AU's grand aspirations are to create a united states of Africa.

Much attention and time will inevitably be spent seeking ways to resolve the ongoing conflicts in Darfur and Somalia.

The United Nations is seeking to replace the 7,000-strong AU force, which has vainly struggled to oversee the western Sudanese region for two years, with a group that could enforce a peace deal struck last month between Khartoum and Darfur's main rebel group.

The summit will also examine progress in the implementation of fragile peace deals in two unstable states that must hold presidential elections this year - the Democratic Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast.

Participants will also have to decide on the fate of former Chadian leader Hissane Habre, who is currently being held in Senegal.

The summit is to decide on whether Senegal should prosecute Habre or extradite him to Belgium for trial on charges of crimes against humanity.

African integration -- the summit theme -- in practical terms means the reduction in the number of regional economic and political blocs across the continent.

Officially there are eight, but diplomats estimate their number at more than 14. The goal in Banjul would be to cut them down to about five.

Migration will also come under the spotlight.

The Banjul summit is also meeting as the African Charter on Human and People's Rights, whose headquarters are in Gambia, marks its 25 anniversary.

Other issues up for discussion include the African charter on democracy, elections and governance, as well as a revision of the Lome declaration on unconstitutional changes of governments in Africa.

Malaria, HIV/AIDS and chronic poverty which ravage the African continent are also on the summit agenda.