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African leaders approve plan to strengthen Union

888Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi delivers a speech during the opening of the African Union (AU) summit in Sirte, about 600 km east of Tripoli, July 1, 2009.

African leaders approve plan to strengthen Union

SIRTE, Libya (Reuters) – African heads of state on Friday approved a plan to enhance the powers of the African Union and give it a role in coordinating defence policy and trade negotiations, a participant in the talks said.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi has led a drive to turn the AU into a bloc along the lines of the European Union and had pushed hard for the adoption of the plan at a summit of African leaders he is hosting this week.

A document enhancing the powers of the African Union’s executive body was approved at about 4 a.m. (0200 GMT) after many hours of discussions at the summit, Benin’s Foreign Minister Jean-Marie Ehouzou, told reporters.

“We haven given agreement for the coordination of foreign affairs and defence,” he said.

“The states are ready to cede a little bit a part of their sovereignty for the benefit of the (Union).”

The document has to be ratified by member states’ parliaments before it comes into force.

According to a copy of the document seen by Reuters, the AU’s executive body will:

* “Coordinate the positions of the member states of the AU during international negotiations.”

* “Coordinate the implementation of a common African policy on defence and security as well as strategy and the mobilisation of the necessary resources for the defence of the continent.”

* “Represent the common interests of the member states of the Union and speak in their name in international forums on international trade.”

Created in 1999 in the same Libyan city where this week’s summit was held, the 53-member AU was designed to fight poverty and instability by removing barriers to trade and allowing African states to speak with a single voice.

It issues political declarations and oversees peacekeeping missions in Somalia and Sudan’s Darfur region. It has not though lived up to the ambitions of some of its founders who wanted it to develop into an EU-style bloc.

Customs tariffs, border restrictions and poor transport links continue to restrict trade between African states.

Most African states back economic integration but some are sceptical about a stronger political role for the AU because they are not prepared to loosen their control over defence and foreign policy.

One diplomat at the summit said the document was vague about what real new powers the reformed body would have.

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Liverpool decide against Suarez appeal in race abuse ban

 Liverpool will not be appealing the eight-game ban for their Uruguay international striker Luis Suarez, the English Premier League club said Tuesday.

Suarez received the suspension and a $62,000 fine for racially abusing Manchester United’s Patrice Evra in a match in October.
Their decision follows the weekend release by the English Football Association (FA) of the findings of its Independent Regulatory Commission.
A detailed 115-page report concluded that Suarez’s evidence was “unreliable” and “inconsistent”, revealing that he had called Evra a “negro” no fewer than seven times in a heated exchange.
Liverpool continued to defend Suarez in a lengthy statement on its official website, claiming the FA had constructed a “highly subjective” case against him, which was “ultimately unsubstantiated.”

Suarez, who joined Liverpool from Dutch side Ajax last season, also protested his innocence in a statement.

“Never, I repeat, never, have I had any racial problem with a team mate or individual who was of a different race or color to mine. Never,” it read.He added: “In my country, ‘negro’ is a word we use commonly, a word which doesn’t show any lack of respect and is even less so a form of racist abuse. Based on this, everything which has been said so far is totally false.”

Suarez’s ban will begin immediately, meaning he will miss Tuesday night’s clash against EPL leaders Manchester City at the Etihad Stadium.

“I do feel sorry for the fans and for my team mates whom I will not be able to help during the next month. It will be a very difficult time for me,” he said.
Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish and his players wore Suarez t-shirts in the warm-up before their match
against Wigan last month, but ultimately the club decided not to prolong the affair.
FA: Suarez evidence ‘unreliable’
“It is time to put the Luis Suarez matter to rest and for all of us, going forward, to work together to stamp out racism in every form both inside and outside the sport,” the statement said.
His absence from the Liverpool line-up will be keenly felt during a critical period as they chase a Champions League place.
Suarez will also miss their League Cup semifinal tie against Manchester City as Dalglish bids to win his first silverware since taking charge last season.

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