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Gabon's Jean Ping elected as AU Commission chief
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Jean Ping, deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister of Gabon, was elected as the new chairperson of the African Union (AU) Commission on Friday to replace former Malian president Alpha Oumar Konare.

Jean Ping garnered 31 votes, while the other two candidates, Inonge Mbikusita-Lewanika, who is Zambia's ambassador to the United States, and Sierra Leone's Abdulai Osman Conteh, current Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Belize, gained 17 votes and 1 vote respectively.

The election, held at the ongoing 10th AU Summit in Addis Ababa, seat of the pan-African body, is among the hottest topics at this summit.

During an interview with Xinhua just after the election, defeated Lewanika expressed her congratulations toward Jean Ping and her optimism toward Africa's future.

She said Africa, which is a great continent rich in resources, definitely would continue to move forward in the future.

Meanwhile, Erastus Mwencha from Kenya, currently serving as secretary-general of the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa, was elected as Ping's deputy.

The election result came out after Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi proposed to postpone the election, diplomatic sources said. Qaddafi, with brown sunglasses, left the meeting room before the result was officially announced.

Jean Ping, who enjoys general popularity in Gabon, was born in 1942.

He first entered the political field in March 1994, he was appointed as Gabon's foreign minister for the first time, but left the position eight months later.

He was appointed as foreign minister in 1999 once again, and has been in that office ever since.

The AU Commission is the AU's permanent secretariat, comprising a chairperson, a deputy chairperson and some commissioners.

The AU has 53 members, and Morocco is the only African country that is not a member.

The bloc was founded in July 2002 to replace the Organization for African Unity established in 1963, aiming at promoting cooperation, development and integration on the African continent.

(Xinhua News Agency February 2, 2008)

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