- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 4, 2003

ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia African leaders agreed yesterday to establish a peace and security council with the power to intervene in the continent's myriad conflicts.
On the first day of a special two-day summit, representatives of 32 of the 53 African Union member states also agreed that the AU chairman, now South African President Thabo Mbeki, would have the power to convene the council and other organs, AU attorney Ben Kioko said.
Mr. Mbeki became chairman in July at a summit in Durban, South Africa, when the AU replaced the ineffectual Organization of African Unity, which had not been able to deal with conflict.
Under the organization's charter, its conflict-resolution body could only call on member states to end internal and external conflicts, and members had to agree to convene that body.
Although the new AU body can act more efficiently, it is not clear where the financing would come from to underwrite intervention, as the AU inherited a $40 million debt from the organization.
Amounts from $100 million to $500 million have been cited as necessary to meet the annual operating budget. A committee has been set up to study the possibility of raising funds through a tax on all airline tickets issued in Africa and through a 0.05 percent duty on all imports to West Africa.
In a keynote speech to the summit, Mr. Mbeki said he and his colleagues owed the creation of the council to the "impoverished Africans whose lives have been destroyed by war."
Representatives later discussed the rebellion in Ivory Coast, as well as the 9-year-old civil war in Burundi, nearly five years of fighting in Congo and the 20-year-old conflict in Sudan.
Ivory Coast President Laurent Gbagbo, who did not attend the summit, has not commented on whether he plans to implement a controversial peace deal he signed with rebels in Paris last month.
The Ivorian army says it will not respect the power-sharing agreement that puts rebels in charge of the police and military. Thousands of government supporters have been protesting the deal.
African leaders also agreed to seek financial and moral support from the African diaspora to make the African Union work, and added Spanish and Kiswahili, the lingua franca of eastern Africa, to the list of the AU's official languages, which includes Arabic, English, Portuguese and French.
The next regular AU summit will take place in Mozambique in July.

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