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Libya's Gadhafi named African Union chairman

  • Story Highlights
  • Gadhafi replaces the leader of Tanzania, who held the post for the last year
  • The chairmanship is an annual rotating position
  • Gadhafi will try in his new role to push Africa "to become African united states"
  • U.S. says the African Union is an "important partner"
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ADDIS ABABA, Ethiopia (CNN) -- African leaders have chosen Libyan President Moammar Gadhafi as chairman of the African Union, according to Ethiopian and Libyan official news agencies.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi will chair the African Union for one year.

Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi will chair the African Union for one year.

At a closed session on Monday, the 53-member Assembly of the African Union Heads of State and Government elected Gadhafi to replace the Tanzanian President, Jakaya Kikwete, who held the position for the last year.

Chairmanship of the AU went to the northern African nation because the post is a rotating position held by heads of state for one year.

According to Libya's official news agency, Gadhafi will attempt in his new role "to take a decision on establishing an executive instrument for the AU, to push Africa forward to become African united states, such as the United States of Africa."

U.S. State Department spokesman Robert Wood answered only in general terms about how the United States would deal with its former adversary as the AU president.

"In terms of our working with the AU, we're going to continue, because we have a lot of interests and joint interest in terms of trying to bring peace and stability and economic development and delivery of humanitarian assistance to the continent where it's needed," Wood said.

"And so the AU is an important partner for us. It will continue to be. And we'll just have to see how it goes."

The United States named Libya a state sponsor of terrorism in 1979 and severed diplomatic relations in 1981 after years of strained relations following a 1969 coup that left Gadhafi as head of the government.

But the two countries moved closer after Libya agreed to pay restitution to families of victims of the 1988 bombing of a Pan Am jet over Lockerbie, Scotland, and announced its decision to abandon a weapons of mass destruction program.

The United States removed Libya from the list of state sponsors of terrorism and restored full diplomatic relations in 2006.

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