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Congo’s Sassou Nguesso favoured as next AU chairman

Jan 22, 2006 (BRAZZAVILLE) — Several heads of state have asked Congo President Denis Sassou Nguesso to take over the chairmanship of the African Union (AU) during an imminent summit in Khartoum, Congo’s prime minister said Sunday.

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Denis Sassou Nguesso

"It’s not impossible that President Sassou Nguesso succeeds Nigerian (President) Olusegun Obasanjo at the head of the AU because he is being courted by several of his counterparts asking him to take over the chairmanship," Isidore Mvouba told a news conference in Brazzaville.

The summit takes place on Monday and Tuesday.

Traditionally the president of the country hosting the continental bloc’s ordinary summit takes over the chairmanship, but pressure has mounted, notably from human rights groups, not to bestow that honour on Sudanese President Omar al Beshir.

"President Sassou Nguesso is not asking to be elected, but his peers want him to succeed President Obasanjo," Mvouba said.

"The most influential heads of state think it would be good that the AU chairmanship goes to central Africa and in particular Denis Sassou Nguesso," the prime minister said.

He did not name the African presidents in question.

Much of the opposition against a Beshir chairmanship is driven by the massive human rights abuses in the western Sudanese region of Darfur, ravaged by civil war since early 2003 and the theatre of what the United States has described as a genocide.

AU-brokered peace talks to end the bloodshed in Darfur have been taking place in Abuja under the aegis of the African Union, and the main rebel groups have warned they will pull out of the talks if Sudan is given the AU presidency.