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[Published: Monday June 22 2009]

ECOWAS summit opens in Abuja

Abuja, 22 June-(ANA)-West African leaders began their mid-year summit on Monday in Abuja with political crises in Niger, Guinea and Guinea Bissau at the top of their agenda.

Opening the summit, the chairman of the 15-nation Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), Nigeria's President Umaru Yar'Adua, said that the region faces "serious political and economic challenges."

"We gather here today at a time of great political and economic challenges for our world and our region," he said.

ECOWAS president Mohamed Ibn Chambas, called for a strengthening of regional integration, adding that the situation in the region has worsened since the last summit six months ago.

"Since the last summit in December 2008, the economic prospects of our sub region have become gloomy, characterised by the economic meltdown and political instability in some countries," he stated.

Most of the ECOWAS 15 heads of state were present at the opening of the one-day summit.

They included Ghanaian John Atta-Mills, Ivoirian Laurent Gbagbo, Burkinabe Blaise Compaore, Senegalese Abdoulaye Wade, Togolese Faure Gnassingbe, Sierra Leonean President Ernest Bai Koroma, Liberian Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf and the prime minister of Cape Verde, Jose Maria Neves.

Guinea, suspended from the activities of the regional bloc, is not expected to attend the meeting while Niger is expected to be represented by its prime minister, Seini Oumarou, the ECOWAS commissioner responsible for political affairs, peace and security, Mahamane Toure, told AFP.

Besides the traditional economic issues, the summit will tackle questions related to Guinea Bissau, Guinea and Niger, Mali and Ivory Coast, Toure said.(ANA)

FA/ANA/22 June 2009---



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