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Annan hosts Equatorial Guinea-Gabon island talks

Written by: Staff

UNITED NATIONS, Feb 23 (Reuters) UN Secretary General Kofi Annan will host a summit in Geneva next week to try to end a dispute between Equatorial Guinea and Gabon over a tiny island in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea.

The two neighbors, which both already produce oil, have disputed ownership of Mbanie, a virtually uninhabited 74-acre (30-hectare) island some 30 km off Africa's Atlantic coast.

U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said on Wednesday that Annan would host the summit with between President El Hadj Omar Bongo Ondimba of Gabon and President Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo of Equatorial Guinea on Monday during a trip to Europe.

The rocky island of Mbanie lies in potentially oil-rich waters between Gabon and Equatorial Guinea's African mainland territory. The country's capital Malabo is situated on the island of Bioko, to the northwest.

The Gabonese unit of Anglo-Dutch oil major Royal Dutch Shell says it has rights to prospect the Mbanie zone according to its contract with Gabon for the Igoumou block, but has put the project on hold pending resolution of the dispute.

The differences between the two countries go back to 1972 when Gabon's army chased Equatorial Guinean fighters from the islands and its President Bongo went to the islet to plant the Gabonese flag.

The argument has since flared up several times between the two countries, which have also disputed ownership of the larger Corisco island nearby, which is inhabited by people from the Benga ethnic group, which is present in both countries.

Reuters PDS VP0140

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