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16th AU summit opens to discuss African peace, stability

ADDIS ABABA, Jan. 30 — The 16th African Union (AU) summit opened on Sunday here in the Ethiopian capital of Addis Ababa, as African leaders gather to discuss peace, security and stability on the continent.

The summit's theme "Towards Greater Unity and Integration Through Shared Values," is likely to be overshadowed by heated discussion on a number of thorny issues including the political crisis in Cote d'Ivoire, the social unrest in Tunis and Egypt, the post-referendum reconstruction in Sudan and the deteriorating situation in Somalia.

AU Commission Chairperson Jean Ping, AU President and Malawi President Bingu Mutharika, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and French President Nicolas Sarkozy were among those present at the opening ceremony.

Ban, when addressing the opening ceremony, again expressed concerned about the situation in Cote d'Ivoire.

He reiterated UN's stance that Alassane Ouattara was the rightful president-elect of the West African country, and he welcomed the decision by the AU Peace and Security Council to create a high-level panel to deal with the crisis in the West African country.

Mutharika, in his opening speech, also appealed to Laurent Gbagbo to cede power, to respect the will of Ivorian people and the election results.

Equatorial Guinea's President Teodoro Obiang Ngcuema Mbasogo takes over the rotating presidency of AU from Mutharika during the opening ceremony.

During a press conference on the eve of the summit, Jean Ping predicted that the summit would be characterized by "serious divergences," with intense discussions on Cote d'Ivoire, Tunisia, and south Sudan, among others. (PNA/Xinhua) scs/rsm

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