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Wednesday, March 10, 1999 Published at 10:24 GMT


World: Africa

Nigeria set to rejoin Commonwealth

General Obasanjo: Will discuss Sierra Leone with Mr Cook

Nigeria is almost certain to be readmitted to the Commonwealth, the visiting UK Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, has said.

Nigeria elections
"I very much hope that in April, we will be able to ... admit Nigeria immediately back into full membership of the Commonwealth," Mr Cook said in remarks broadcast on Nigerian TV.

The issue is likely to be on the agenda when Mr Cook meets president-elect Olesegun Obasanjo on Wednesday as part of his West African visit.

Nigeria was expelled from the Commonwealth in 1995 following the execution of opposition activists, including the writer Ken Saro Wiwa.

Sierra Leone concerns

Mr Cook is likely to raise with General Obasanjo the issue of Sierra Leone's security.

Sierra Leone
The foreign secretary has called on Nigeria not to pull out its troops from Sierra Leone until peace has been restored.

Recently, there have been fears that a civilian government in Abuja would withdraw Nigerian soldiers from the Ecomog intervention force defending the Sierra Leone Government against an armed rebellion.

Mr Cook has promised UK support for Ecomog, which is largely made up of Nigerian forces.

Mr Cook, who met military leader General Abdulsalami Abubakar on Tuesday, said he was overwhelmed at the success of the recent Nigerian elections and being the first foreign minister to visit the country after the elections.

Privatisation plans

General Abubakar told Mr Cook that Nigeria's current government would press ahead with privatisation and other measures "to place the national economy on a stronger footing".

This immediately drew criticism from the People's Democratic Party, which is due to take power in May.

A PDP spokesman said that though the party did not oppose privatisation, it should be the responsibility of an elected government and not the present transitional regime.

Franco-British meeting


[ image: Cook: First foreign minister to visit since elections]
Cook: First foreign minister to visit since elections
On Thursday, Mr Cook is to meet his French counterpart Hubert Vedrine, and British and French diplomats from across Africa.

The meeting in Ivory Coast is intended to allow the two former colonial powers to "reflect together on the possibility of harmonising political work and co-operation ... and how to improve security across Africa," a joint statement from the UK and French embassies said.

France and the UK resolved last year to work more closely on international matters.

Falae to challenge poll

In Nigeria, Olu Falae, who lost last month's presidential elections, has confirmed that he will challenge the results in court.

He said General Obasanjo had won only by "monumental fraud", and hoped a court case would "serve as a deterrent in the future".



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