COMESSA Begins Summit to Discuss Assortment of Common Issues
The Community of Sahel-Saharan States (COMESSA), a regional group founded in 1998 by Libyan leader Muammar Kadhafi, started a summit in Khartoum Monday to discuss the Lockerbie trial and economic revival plans for Africa, said reports.
Five new members, including African giants Nigeria and Egypt, attended the summit as members for the first time, bringing the total number of countries in COMESSA to 16, reported AFP.
After a brief introduction speech by the regional organization's chairman, Chadian President Idriss Deby, Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir called on COMESSA to combat desertification and poverty.
"Small countries cannot live without uniting in a community that will let them work at an equal level with the other great regions of the world," Bashir said.
Other countries attending as members for the first time were Morocco and Tunisia.
According to Maghreb Arabe Presse (MAP), President Bashir has received a verbal message from King Mohammed VI of Morocco which dealt with bilateral relations and means of promoting these relations in various realms.
In the letter, Morocco's King pledged adherence to COMESSA, said the official agency.
Somalia is a newcomer to the group. According to AFP, the country presented its application for entrance just days before the summit.
The move is a sign of support for President Abdulkassim Salat Hassan, who took office in August after a Somali reconciliation conference in Djibouti, but who has not managed to impose his authority throughout much of the country.
COMESSA consisted of 11 countries: Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Gambia, Libya, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Sudan.
The delegations, most represented by a head of state, are due to meet in a closed-door session Tuesday to draft a general political statement and an economic plan of action.
According to Al Jazira satellite channel, the 16 representatives, including 11 heads of states, countries are set to discuss the results of the Lockerbie trial, in which one Libyan was sentenced to life in prison and another acquitted on charges of blowing up a Pan Am plane over Scotland in 1988, killing 270 people.
The agenda also includes, in addition to economic and political item, security coordination, which is expected, together with the topic of political freedom and human rights, to raise a debate a ong member countries, said the station.
Egyptian Foreign Minister Amr Moussa was quoted in the report as confirming that security will be discussed by the attendants, in addition to what he called “stereotypical issues.”
In addition, Al Jazira report quoted observers as raising doubts over the effectiveness of such gathering in light of the fact that it groups poor an unstable countries. But Libyan minister of African cooperation stressed the ability of the members to take solid steps towards achieving solutions to their common problems.
Among the problems to be discussed will be the crisis in Central African Republic, where the government is short of funds to pay civil servants and fuel is being tightly rationed.
Libya has offered assistance to Bangui and has said it could offer more help for the country to overcome the situation, diplomats said, cited by AFP.
The COMESSA executive committee, which includes three ministers from each country, met on Sunday and will propose to the summit an economic action plan on energy, communications and the environment, added the agency.
Under the plan, energy-endowed countries such as Libya and Egypt could help less fortunate members, while COMESSA member countries would try to facilitate telecommunications by coordinating at the technical level.
Also on the agenda are plans to set up a fund for drought and other natural disasters as well as a new regional airline, officials said earlier.
AFP said that the summit will also debate a Libyan proposal to launch a regional airline, quoting Rashid Khidir, the director of African affairs at Sudan's foreign ministry as telling journalists earlier.
Khidir added that the company would be established with private funds within COMESSA and would benefit from aircraft and equipment already owned by a private Libyan firm whose name he did not disclose.
The airline would cover some or all of the 16 member states – Albawaba.com
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