Porlamar: Muammar Gaddafi and Hugo Chavez urged nearly 30 leaders from throughout Africa and South America on Saturday to form a strong intercontinental alliance to make the two regions a new global power.
The Libyan leader, on his first visit to the Americas, called for the two regions to become a political and economic force, saying that together "we can transform the world”.
Gaddafi proposed a defence alliance of South American and African nations, calling it "a NATO of the South" — an idea Chavez has raised with other allies in the past.
Seven South American leaders signed an agreement to create a regional development bank with USD 20 billion in startup capital, and Chavez offered to help create a "South-South bank" with African countries in the future.
The two-day meeting that began on Saturday on Venezuela`s Margarita Island addressed a wide range of concerns, from hunger in Africa to the economic crisis and demands for reforming the United Nations.
Chavez called it "a summit of great importance for the struggles of the South”. Presidents discussed plans for joint projects in energy, mining, agriculture and other areas.
"Only united will we be free," Chavez said as he opened the summit.
The meeting gave Chavez an opportunity to attempt a greater leadership role outside Latin America while critiquing US influence and promoting socialist-inspired policies. He said on Friday that by uniting, the two regions can confront a legacy of poverty left "by the empires of the North — by the empires of Europe, by the US empire."
Gaddafi echoed some of Chavez`s concerns about the world`s economic powers in a wide-ranging speech on Saturday, saying through an interpreter that "colonialism has stolen our riches”.
Without naming any particular countries, Gaddafi also denounced what he called the "politics of the club" used by some nations against others.
Gaddafi made his first visit to Latin America after attending the UN General Assembly in New York, and met Chavez inside a trademark Bedouin tent next to the hotel`s pool.
The Libyan leader said it was "humiliating" that his delegation had to travel 20 hours to reach New York, and held up a map while calling for more air routes between Southern Hemisphere nations.
In his UN speech, Gaddafi denounced the Security Council as the "Terror Council" for failing to prevent dozens of wars. He insisted on the need for UN reform as he addressed leaders in Venezuela.
"The situation we have in the Security Council is unsustainable," Gaddafi said, noting that one group "enjoys the right to a veto" while the rest "of us have no right”.
Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva agreed the Security Council has "lost relevance" and said "we should work together to reform it”.
Gaddafi, who has ruled Libya since he seized power in a 1969 coup, has sought a greater leadership role internationally in recent years and is currently chairman of the African Union.
"South-South" cooperation was a buzzword at the summit, which brought together both the African Union and South America`s fledgling UNASUR group.
Argentine President Cristina Fernandez expressed hope that Africa will expand its potential to produce and export food and said her government is willing to provide technology and expertise to help.
African leaders including Zimbabwe`s Robert Mugabe and Algeria`s Abdelaziz Bouteflika greeted Chavez warmly, some with handshakes and others with kisses on the cheeks. They were joined by South American Presidents from Chile`s Michelle Bachelet to Bolivia`s Evo Morales.
Chavez called Gaddafi and Bouteflika the historic "liberators" of their countries and said socialism — both in Africa and in Latin America — will be "the path to the world`s salvation."
He also said Venezuela is looking into energy projects in Africa.
Chavez has already announced that Venezuela may help build an oil refinery in Mauritania that could process 30,000 to 40,000 barrels per day and supply fuel to Mali, Niger and Gambia.
It is unclear how much the South American oil exporter is prepared to invest since it is coping with a sharp drop in its revenues due to lower crude prices.