Secretary General of the Organization of the African Unity Salim Ahmed Salim arrived in Khartoum on Saturday for participation in the summit of the Sahel and Sahara countries scheduled to begin on Sunday, according to reports.
On arrival, the OAU chief told reporters that a regional grouping such as hosted by Khartoum was important in solidifying African unity. He said such a grouping was also a way to confront challenges of globalization, said Saudi news agency (SPA).
Salim praised the "the role the community plays in achieving socio-economic development and resolving conflicts in the region," according to Panafrican News Agency (PNA)
The OAU, he said, encourages such groupings, which are instrumental in the consolidation of peace and stability on the continent.
The Sahel and Sahara group was founded by Sudan, Niger, Chad and central Africa republic but it has now expanded to include Libya, Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Egypt, Tunisia and Morocco.
Sudan's minister of foreign affairs, Mustafa Osman, had said that his government had extended invitations to all the community's heads of state and governments to attend the summit and that about 80 percent of those leaders have confirmed their participation at the summit.
Osman said invitations were also extended to a number of regional and international celebrities to attend the summit that include the secretaries-general of the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), the Director-General of the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) and the secretary-general of the Common Market for East and Southern Africa (COMESSA).
He said the summit will discuss issues related to the security of the region, political coordination as a well as economic integration among the community's member states, according to PNA.
On Saturday, Libyan leader Muammar Kadhafi said he wanted to create an airline for Sahel-Saharan states, a Sudanese foreign ministry official was quoted by AFP as saying during a round of preparatory talks ahead of the regional summit.
"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 COMESSA to be held in Khartoum Monday and Tuesday.
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, said AFP.
According to the agency, the Abidjan-based airline has been in a financial crisis since 1993, and is burdened by debts estimated by creditors at 474 million dollars, 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." – Albawaba.com
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