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Gaddafi hails progress towards Africa unity govt

ADDIS ABABA, Feb 4 (Reuters) - Multi-party politics imposed on Africa from abroad has brought only chaos, but steps towards forming a federal government for the continent provide a ray of hope, Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said on Wednesday.

Gaddafi has been calling for years for a "United States of Africa", arguing it is the only way to meet the challenges of globalisation, end endemic poverty and resolve conflicts without interference by the West.

Some African nations, headed by economic powerhouse South Africa, have rejected his long-held dream of a continental unity government idea as a distant and impractical prospect.

"We don't have any political structures (in Africa), our structures are social," Gaddafi told a news conference at the end of an African Union (AU) summit in Ethiopia.

"Our parties are tribal parties -- that is what has led to bloodshed," said Gaddafi, who was elected AU chairman at the meeting. Most African governments are under pressure from donors to put in place democratic reforms and hold regular free and fair, multi-party polls.

Gaddafi cited Kenya's post-election crisis last year, when 1,300 people were killed, as proof such systems did not work.

On Sunday, AU leaders agreed only to change the name of the current AU Commission into an "authority" with a larger mandate, bigger budget and expanded "capacities". But officials have been vague about how its powers will expand.

Dressed in an orange robe, large sunglasses and maroon hat, Gaddafi told reporters AU foreign ministers would now meet within three months to submit recommendations when the authority is launched in July at the next summit in Madagascar.

Gaddafi conceded that the body's 53 member states were divided on the issue, and he hailed Sunday's decision.

The new authority would have "coordinators" on defence and foreign affairs, he said, and "secretaries" in areas including communication, trade, health and the environment.

"It is a major decision ... that puts an end to all the deliberations that we have had," Gaddafi said. "This should be applauded and now we must implement this decision."

The official theme of the summit in Addis Ababa was boosting African infrastructure, which experts say is vital if the continent is to weather the global economic downturn.

Discussion of the unity government plan, and the impact of the credit crisis, meant the leaders were locked in talks well past midnight on Tuesday, long after the meeting was scheduled to end. The closing ceremony was then postponed to Wednesday. (Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Matthew Jones)

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