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African Union's peace council powerful tool for preventing conflict - Annan

25 May 2004 United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan has hailed the African Union's new Peace and Security Council as a potentially powerful tool for the prevention, management and resolution of violent conflict on the continent.

"With the establishment of this important body, the African Union has crossed yet another significant threshold in its quest to promote lasting peace and stability, strengthen democratic institutions and support sustainable development throughout Africa," Mr. Annan said in a message to the official ceremony Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, marking the Council's inauguration.

"The wise counsel and vigorous diplomacy of its members will be crucial in guiding the continent through the troubled waters of instability and economic stagnation to the calmer seas of peace and development," the Secretary-General said through his Special Representative for Ethiopia and Eritrea, Legwaila Joseph Legwaila.

Mr. Annan noted that the ceremony was occurring on the date on which the Organization of African Unity (OAU) was inaugurated 41 years ago, and which is now commemorated throughout the continent as Africa Day.

He said the OAU's inauguration "carried the hopes and aspirations" of Africa's peoples for an independent, peaceful and prosperous continent, and that independence was achieved due in no small measure to its work.

"That Organization has given way to the African Union, which now has the responsibility to guide Africa's future as it strives to fulfil the aspirations of its constituency and meet the challenges ahead," the Secretary-General said, pledging the UN's full commitment to assisting African leaders "in every way possible in your pursuit of integration, development and peace."

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