African Union (AU) members have agreed a plan to give its executive arm enhanced powers to co-ordinate common-interest policies, officials say. But the African Authority will not be able to act internationally unless it has a mandate from heads of state. The compromise on the draft came after hours of heated debate in a closed session in the Libyan town of Sirte.

UNION ROLEIt had been resisted by South Africa and Nigeria, among others, who objected to giving the authority too much power. The new African Authority aims to simplify the AU’s structure, allowing more control over diplomatic, trade and defence matters.

It will “represent the common interests of the member states of the Union and speak in their name in international forums on international trade”, Reuters news agency quoted the draft agreement as saying. The structure will create a president, a vice-president, and a secretary of peace and security and common defence. Other secretaries will replace the current union’s commissioners.

But the BBC’s Rana Jawad in Sirte says the powers of the Authority focus on co-ordination rather than unilateral implementation. While it will co-ordinate key policies, it will only be able to act with the consent of members, rather than exercising power over them.

Benin’s Foreign Minister Jean-Marie Ehouzou said the final text “reflects everybody’s position”. “The states are ready to cede a little bit a part of their sovereignty for the benefit of the [Union],” he said. Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, also the current AU chairman, had pushed hard for the grouping to be given wider regional and defence powers.



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