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African leaders reach agreement on new authority, ICC's Bashir indictment
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by Xinhua writer Zhu Lei and Luo Guofang
Saturday, July 04, 2009

SIRTE, Libya, July 3 (Xinhua) -- African leaders wound up a summit on Friday after reaching a deal on the creation of a new authority and approving a resolution to abstain from cooperation with the International Criminal Court (ICC) over extraditing Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir.

    COMPROMISE ON CREATION OF AU AUTHORITY

The African leaders agreed to create the African Union (AU) Authority, but it has to be ratified by African parliaments, said Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi at the closing session of the 13th AU Summit.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi delivers a speech during the closing of the 13th African Union (AU) summit in Sirte, Libya, July 3, 2009. The 13th AU summit wrapped up here Friday after the AU leaders approved a resolution to end cooperation with the International Criminal Court (ICC) over extraditing Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir. (Xinhua Photo)
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Gaddafi said the African leaders "decided to establish a new Authority speaking in one voice on behalf of the African people," adding the new organ is headed by a president and possessing an enhanced role to coordinate foreign affairs, trade and defense policies on the world's poorest continent.

But the AU Authority will only come into force when the 53 African states ratify an amended treaty of the AU, known as the Constitutive Act, according to the veteran Libyan leader.

Asked when the new Authority would be ratified at a joint press conference with AU Commission Chairman Jean Ping after the summit, Gaddafi said it would be ratified "in due time."

The compromise reached after a three-day heated debate will give the African states at least six years to consult their parliaments before committing themselves to submitting their authority to the new AU Authority, diplomatic sources said.

The idea of establishing a unity government in Africa has been discussed for years among African leaders. Gaddafi is leading the calls to immediately establish a union government, which he believes is the only way to meet the challenges of globalization, fight poverty and resolve conflicts without western interference.

But the gradualists, mainly south and east African leaders grouped around former South African President Thabo Mbeki, oppose an immediate integration, suggesting currently African nations should first focus on improving their respective socio-political systems, strengthening regional cooperation, and solving their own peace and development problems.

However, South African President Jacob Zuma said at the closing session that South Africa remained to be steadfast in its commitments to African unity, pledging "we will never betray the causes of African advancement and African unity."

    REGIONAL HOTSPOTS

South African President Jacob Zuma walks into the venue to attend the closing ceremony of the 13th African Union (AU) summit in Sirte, 500 km southeast of Tripoli, capital of Libya, on July 3, 2009. The 13th AU summit wrapped up here Friday after the AU leaders approved a resolution to end cooperation with the International Criminal Court (ICC) over extraditing Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir. (Xinhua Photo)
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Zuma said this summit also touched on the climate change, the conflicts and disputes on the continent, such as in Sudan's western region of Darfur, Somalia, Madagascar, Cote d'Iviore, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Mauritania, besides discussions on the theme of "investing in agriculture for economic development and food security."

As for Somalia's security situation, Zuma said African leaders expressed their support to the transitional federal government led by Somali President Sheikh Sharif Sheikh Ahmed.

The African leaders also decided to abstain from cooperation with the ICC over extraditing Sudanese President al-Bashir, according to a text of the draft resolution.

Sudan's Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Al-Samani al-Wasila attends the closing ceremony of the 13th AU summit in Sirte, 500 km southeast of Tripoli, capital of Libya, on July 3, 2009. The 13th AU summit wrapped up here Friday after the AU leaders approved a resolution to end cooperation with the International Criminal Court (ICC) over extraditing Sudan's President Omar al-Bashir. (Xinhua Photo)
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On March 4, The Hague-based ICC issued an arrest warrant against al-Bashir for alleged war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur between 2003 and 2008.

The division over Africa's integration overshadowed the official agenda focused on boosting agricultural investment for the world's poorest continent.

Agriculture, which produces 25 to 35 percent of Africa's gross domestic product and provides 60 percent of Africa's employment, is underfunded according to a report jointly published late May by AU and the UN Economic Commission for Africa.

African countries have once pledged to spend an average of 10 percent of their total national budget on agriculture but only several countries have fulfilled their promises.

The theme of this summit, Zuma said, underlines that investment is critical in boosting economy, but the African people expect more tangible moves.

At the joint press conference after the summit, the AU Commission chairperson stressed the importance of agriculture in economic development, calling on African countries to live up to its investment promises.

Libya is expected to host a special AU summit in early September, which will coincide with the 40th anniversary of Gaddafi's rise to power of the Libyan "Guide" on Sept. 1, 1969, after the overthrow of King Idriss.

Leaders from about half of the AU members came to the three-day summit in Libya's north-central coastal city of Sirte, where the proclamation of the AU was signed in 1999.



 





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