Sirte- Libya (PANA) -- The Community of Sahelian-Saharan States (CEN- SAD) heads of state conference opened behind closed doors Thursday in Sirte, central Libya under the chairmanship of the body's current chairman, Libyan leader Moammar Kadhafi.
The meeting will mainly focus on the enhancement of the CEN-SAD undertakings as well as co-ordination of member countries' stance ahead of the African union (AU) eight ordinary summit due to convene from 29-30 January in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.
The Sirte forum is being attended by several heads of state, including François Bozizé of the Central African Republic, Chad's Idris Deby, Guinea Bissau's Joao Bernardo Vieira, Assias Afeworki of Eritrea, Senegal's Abdoulaye Wade, Amadou Toumani Touré of Mali, Ivorian president Laurent Gbagbo, Burkinabe leader Blaise Compaoré, Somalia's Abdallah Youssef and Togo's Faure Gnassingbé.
CEN-SAD comprises 23 African countries and was set up 4 February 1998 in Tripoli, Libya at the end of a meeting between Col.
Kadhafi and the presidents of Mali, Niger, Sudan and Chad.
It seeks to set up an overall economic union based on a strategy that complements the national development plans of member countries focusing on investment in the agricultural, industrial, energy, social and cultural sectors.
It also aims at lifting impediments to the unification of member countries, promoting foreign trade through an investment policy in member states, improving road, air and sea transport and communication through the implementation of joint projects.
Member states are Benin, Burkina Faso, the Central African Republic, Côte d'Ivoire, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea- Bissau, Liberia, Libya, Mali, Morocco, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, Sudan, Chad, Togo and Tunisia.