Abuja - African foreign ministers met in Nigeria on Thursday ahead of a twice-yearly heads of state summit, which starts on Sunday, to discuss how the world's poorest continent can deal with debilitating poverty, disease and conflict.
Achieving food security and curbing the ravages of diseases such as HIV and Aids, malaria and tuberculosis in Africa are the top themes at this year's meeting, but conflicts in Sudan, Congo, the Ivory Coast and widespread instability remain major obstacles to meeting these goals.
At the opening session on Thursday, Nigeria's Foreign Minister Oluyemi Adeniji called for "a determined and sustainable effort" to overcome Africa's problems.
Foreign ministers are also set to discuss a proposed expansion of the United Nations Security Council, according to the meeting's draft agenda. Some African nations, including Nigeria, are vying for a permanent seat on the Security Council, which currently has five permanent members.
Adeniji said he hoped 2005 would be "a decisive year in which Africa takes its rightful place in decision making on the maintenance of international peace and security".
A report on African conflicts by the African Union's Peace and Security Council will be presented at the foreign ministers' meeting.