Annan discusses Liberian situation with leaders at African Union Summit

Mr. Annan’s first meeting was with leaders of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), including Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo of Nigeria, John Kufuor of Ghana and Ahmed Tejan Kabbah of Sierra Leone, as well as the Foreign Ministers of Ghana and Côte d’Ivoire and the former Nigerian Head of State, Gen. Abdelsalami Abubakar.They also reviewed the status of the ECOWAS joint verification team that is trying to get into Liberia from Sierra Leone to assess the ceasefire.Mr. Annan then met with Mozambican President Joaquim Chissano, who is about to assume the Presidency of the African Union, to discuss the current Summit and a series of African issues, from Liberia to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, to the need to fight HIV/AIDS on the continent.At a press encounter afterwards, the Secretary-General made an appeal to Africans everywhere to unite behind the fight against HIV/AIDS and to end the stigma and discrimination that is attached to that disease.The pandemic, he said, “is taking away essential men and women from education – teachers are being killed, from the health area – we’re losing doctors and nurses, from the security service, in the police and the army, we are losing people.”In response to a question on Liberia and the possibility of the United States sending troops there, Mr. Annan said the immediate challenge had been taken up by ECOWAS with the full support of the African Union. The US had not indicated exactly what it plans to do or the nature of its contribution, he added. “I expect it to take the right decision and grant support to the effort,” he said.Later this evening, Mr. Annan is expected to have a tête-à-tête meeting with South African President Thabo Mbeki.Tomorrow, he will address the meeting of the African Union’s Heads of State, and he is expected to congratulate African leaders on their determination to implement the New Partnership for Africa’s Development, and urge them to apply this determination to all the challenges facing the continent.

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