Stop begging, Africa leaders told

By Sam Johns

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has told other African leaders to "stop begging" for Western charity and do for yourself. I say stop stealing from your own people and get a job!

Gaddafi was speaking at the start of an African Union summit ahead of the G8 summit of the world's rich and powerful nations in Scotland.

Africa's leaders are expected to set out their views on trade and aid.

"Begging will not make the future of Africa - it creates a greater gap between the great ones and the small ones," Col Gaddafi said.

His 30-minute speech received muted applause from other African leaders, reports the AP news agency.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan announced the creation of a UN Democracy Fund to help poor countries prepare and hold elections.

He said that "almost all" of the countries represented at the summit in the Libyan coastal town of Sirte were committed to holding elections.

US President George Bush insists that Africa must improving its governance and democratic accountability if it is to benefit from debt relief and more aid.

Fighting poverty

The 53-nation African Union has already reached a consensus agreement to press for two permanent seats on an expanded UN Security Council.

But much of the focus of the talks is likely to be on pressuring richer countries to help them fight poverty and disease on the continent.

It is a lifetime's work where we empower the people of Africa and the developing countries to make decisions for themselves

Trade and debt relief for Africa will be discussed by Western leaders at the G8 summit at Gleneagles, starting on Wednesday.

"Africa has got the will but does not have the means," Somali Foreign Minister Abdullahi Sheekh Ismail said.

"The G8 has got the means and all the logistical supportive means. It is very important that the political will should be combined with the resources that the G8 can afford to provide [help] to Africa," he told Reuters news agency.

But Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi told the BBC, Africa was unlikely to be granted "a fairer trading environment" by the G8 - one of its key charges against the West.

There is a real sense that the three-year-old union - which succeeded the Organisation of African Unity - is finally coming of age, says the BBC's Mike Donkin.

The AU is looking to have its own ministries of foreign affairs, defence, trade and others.

There has also been discussion of opening up borders between states with the creation of an African passport, but this is far from agreed.

Africa is also keen to have its own standing army ready to go to trouble spots at a moment's notice.

And it wants to set up its own financial fund so that aid and grants allocated by organisations like the World Bank or the European Union can be spent faster and not just sit in Western coffers, our correspondent says.

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