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African leaders meet on AU commission chief impasse

By AFP

COTONOU (AFP) - African leaders met in Cotonou Monday to examine again the thorny issue of electing a new chairman of the African Union Commission, a key post being contested by Gabon and South Africa.

The one-day gathering was held to try to end the impasse after African leaders failed to choose between Gabon's Jean Ping, who has held the post since 2008 and South Africa's Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, a former foreign minister and ex-wife of the president.

"The entire continent is keenly watching our deliberations and is hoping a definitive solution will emerge from this meeting," African Union chairman and Benin President Thomas Boni Yayi said.

"In the face of the multiple challenges which face Africa today, we cannot over-emphasise the urgent need for us to find... solutions that will end the current difficult situation," he said.

Ping was present at the meeting, along with the presidents and prime ministers of several African states.

The AU summit in Addis Ababa in January extended Ping's mandate by six months following the deadlock in the election for a new AU Commission chairman.

There was no official communique issued at the end of the mini-summit but Benin foreign minister Nassirou Arifari Bako told journalists that participants agreed to hold further consultations on the issue before the July summit in Malawi.

"I would like us to be optimistic that we would find a way out before the summit in Lilongwe," he said after the meeting.

"They decided to continue the consultations...," stated Aladji Boni Diallo, officer in charge of diplomatic affairs in the Benin presidency.

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