More than two-dozen African leaders were Monday to open a three-day summit of the Organization of African Unity (OAU) in Lome, expected to give short shrift to a call from Libya's Moamer Khadafi for a grand African Union.
Palestinian President Yasser Arafat and heads of state and government from more than two dozen countries arrived in Lome Sunday ahead of the summit expected to be dominated, in its initial stages, by the plan first aired by the flamboyant Libyan at an OAU summit in Libya last year.
Libya maintains close relations with a series of African countries, including Togo, who it has helped to pay for the hosting of the annual event, and diplomats told AFP Sunday Khadafi is keen to reap his reward with support for his plan.
On Sunday evening, all heads of state present were invited to a dinner put on by Khadafi who arrived in Lome Saturday taking over an entire hotel and setting up himself up in a bedouin tent in the gardens.
The call by the Libyan leader for an "African Union" was agreed last year in Libya but few expect it to get beyond the talking stage. Khadafi has called for a union with broad powers and its own parliament and leader, eventually replacing leaders of Africa's 53 sovereign states and the different sub-regional organizations.
Those still voicing support include Togo and several other small west African countries with close links to the Khadafi regime. Strong resistance comes from several powerful countries on the continent including Egypt, Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa.
After debating the political plan put forward by Tripoli, the summit is also expected to discuss the AIDS crisis sweeping the continent, renew calls for debt relief and rescheduling, and consider the renewed conflict in Sierra Leone.
It is also expected to discuss the situation in the Comoros Islands and in Cote d'Ivoire, where mutinous soldiers recently caused panic and tension remains high.
However several of Africa's on-going wars are off the agenda, particularly following the decision of three countries to boycott the event.
The leaders of Angola, Namibia and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) have refused to come to the Togolese capital over accusations, backed by a UN report, that Togo's President Gnassingbe Eyadema was trading in diamonds for the Angolan rebel movement UNITA.
The summit will last until Wednesday and was scheduled to open at 1100 GMT - LOME (AFP)
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