African Leaders Worry About Economic Consequences Of War

By Stephen Mbogo | July 7, 2008 | 8:13 PM EDT

Nairobi, Kenya ( - African leaders have voiced concern about the economic ramifications of a possible war against Iraq on the continent, whose economies depend heavily on oil imports from the Middle East.

A meeting of the African Union (AU) in the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa, called for a peaceful resolution to the Iraqi disarmament crisis.

The leaders said they were opposed to a war, but added that Iraq should respect and implement Security Council decisions, including the latest resolution on Iraq.

"The whole world is against war, including the American people," said Libyan leader Muammar Gadaffi, one of the driving forces behind the AU, which replaced the Organization of Africa Unity (OAU) last year.

"The U.S. was fighting terrorism, and the world was standing with it," he said. "[But] when the objectives and the aims of the U.S. changed, it became a bilateral issue."

The Libyan leader, himself long accused by the U.S. of being a terror sponsor, said that "terrorism will be victorious if we follow this course."

South African President Thabo Mbeki, the current AU chairman, said Africa was opposed to a war.

Mbeki is reported to be planning to send his Deputy Foreign Minister Aziz Pahad - a Muslim - to Iraq to urge Baghdad to comply with U.N. weapons inspectors in order to avert war.

Pahad told reporters in Pretoria this week that South Africa, as a country that voluntarily dismantled its own nuclear arsenal, had a historical duty to pressure Iraq.

The African leaders are concerned that war in Iraq will lead to higher oil prices and fuel inflation in struggling African economies.

It could also undermine a regional development initiative called NEPAD (New Partnership for Africa's Development), launched in 2001, leaders said.

NEPAD commits African countries to setting and policing good governance standards, respecting human rights and working for peace and poverty reduction. In turn they hope for wealthy countries to increase aid and investment, and reduce trade barriers.

Mbeki also called on African leaders to speed up the creation of a continent-wide "security council" to tackle the region's many wars.

The envisaged body would have the right to step in in cases of suspected war crimes, genocide, or serious threats to the legitimate order, but only Algeria has so far ratified a protocol that is needed to set it up.

Other matters considered by the AU meeting included a proposal to tax all airline tickets issued in Africa to raise operating funds for the AU, which inherited a $40 million debt from the now-defunct OAU.

The leaders also agreed to seek financial and moral support from the African diaspora in order to make the AU work.

They added Spanish and Kiswahili - the lingua franca of eastern Africa - to a list of official AU languages that already includes English, Arabic, Portuguese and French.

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