African summit opens

African leaders began their annual &to=' target=_blank>summit Monday in disarray, failing to resolve dissension over Sudan's bid to chair the 53-state body while it is involved in the conflict in Western Darfur.

The traditional handover to the incoming chairman _ usually the leader of the host country _ was delayed after &to=' target=_blank>Sudan refused to submit to a vote, a source close to delegates said.

The leaders then went into a closed session, including foreign ministers and ambassadors, around 8 p.m. (1700 GMT).

Sudan, Africa's largest country, is suffering numerous internal conflicts despite a power-sharing peace agreement that a year ago ended the civil war in oil-rich southern Sudan.

That conflict centered on demands for autonomy from black southerners who are mainly Christian and animist and charge they have been marginalized by increasingly repressive Islamist governments in the north. President Omar el-Bashir, a military coup leader, has installed Islamic law in northern Sudan.

Human rights groups have warned that giving the African leadership to Sudan _ which the United States accuses of genocide in Darfur _ would damage the image of the continental body formed four years ago to promote human rights, development and democracy.

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