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COMESA Secretary General Erastus Myencha
"This conference marks a beginning, there is a convergence and meeting of minds"
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The BBC's Colin Blane in Cairo
Colonel Gadafi has shaken things up
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Monday, 3 April, 2000, 18:21 GMT 19:21 UK
Fresh start urged at landmark summit
More than 60 presidents, kings and PMs are at the two-day summit
More than 60 leaders are at the two-day summit
The first ever summit of African and European Union leaders has opened in the Egyptian capital, Cairo, with a call for a fresh start in relations.

Portuguese Prime Minister Antonio Guterres - whose country currently holds the EU presidency - said Africa had been a victim of the international system and must not be marginalised in the current economic and technological revolution.

It is time to change our conception and preconceptions of each other

Portuguese PM Antonio Guterres
The Secretary-General of the Organisation of African Unity, Salim, Ahmed Salim, called for quicker action to relieve the debt burden of African countries - Africa as a whole owes an estimated $350bn in external debt.

He said the need for a "faster, deeper and broader process of debt relief cannot be overemphasised".

He also called for a new strategic partnership based on mutual interest and respect.

Robin Cook and Mugabe
The UK and Zimbabwe are close - thanks to alphabetical seating arrangements
Egypt's President Mubarak highlighted that too, but said regional wars in Africa were the main source of suffering.

The President of the European Commission, Romano Prodi, said the first challenge was to put an end to such conflicts.

Human rights and democracy got only brief mentions.

Some 60 heads of state have been sitting in alphabetical order listening to the opening speeches.

Ethiopia has been moved out of sequence however, to avoid sitting next to Eritrea, its opponent in a bitter border dispute.

Overshadowing row

Zimbabwe's President Robert Mugabe was sitting only three seats away from Britain, represented by Foreign Secretary Robin Cook, and they held clear-the-air talks brokered by Nigeria's President, Olusegun Obasanjo.

The run-up to the summit has been overshadowed by the row between the two countries over the increasingly violent political situation in Zimbabwe.

There has also been disagreement about the priorities on the summit agenda.

Libya's Colonel Gaddafi
Libya's Colonel Gaddafi: A pariah no longer
European governments are keen to emphasise the importance of good government, and the obstacles that corruption and war put in the way of development.

African leaders want to talk about access to European markets and debt relief.

The Cairo meeting is also being seen as an opportunity for the Libyan leader, Colonel Gaddafi, to re-enter the international arena.

He has already held talks with Italian Prime Minister Massimo D'Alema.

Television pictures showed the two leaders embracing and having a friendly discussion.

It is the latest move in the process of warming of relations between Libya and the EU since the lifting of UN sanctions on Libya.

Fifty-two African and 15 EU countries are attending the two-day talks, and security has been very tight.

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See also:

03 Apr 00 | Africa
Mugabe and Cook review tensions
15 Mar 00 | Africa
Debt relief for Mozambique
02 Apr 00 | UK Politics
Cook talks tough on Zimbabwe
18 Jan 00 | Africa
Seeking growth in Africa
02 Jan 00 | Africa
Call to stop African arms trade
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