Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi wants to create an airline for Sahel-Saharan states, a Sudanese foreign ministry official said Saturday, February 10, during a round of preparatory talks ahead of a regional summit to be held in Khartoum Monday and Tuesday.
"This proposal aims at linking the region's countries in a more efficient way," the head of African affairs at the Sudanese foreign ministry, Rashid Khidir, told reporters, after a meeting ahead of the third summit of the Community of Sahel-Saharan States (COMESSA).
Khidir said the new airline would be financed by some or all of COMESSA's member states: Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Chad, Djibouti, Eritrea, Gambia, Libya, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Sudan.
Some COMESSA states such as Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Chad, Mali, Niger and Senegal already have a stake in the pan-African airline Air Afrique, which is based in Ivory Coast.
But the Abidjan-based airline has been in a financial crisis since 1993, is burdened by debts estimated by creditors at $474 million, and its future has been further threatened by a contested wave of layoffs.
An African diplomat who attended pre-summit meetings Saturday welcomed Kadhafi's proposal and explained that "some officials from West Africa traveled more than 15,000 kilometers (9,400 miles) to come to Khartoum, stopping over in Abidjan, then Addis Ababa before reaching Sudan."
COMESSA, as distinct from the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), was created in 1998 by Colonel Kadhafi and has mainly economic goals.
Over the past few years, African unity had been at the top of the maverick Libyan leader's agenda and his project of an African Union has already been signed by 31 member-states of the Organization of African Unity (OAU). Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia are all expected to join COMESSA, boosting its membership to 15. — (AFP, Khartoum)
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )