updated 12/9/2007 6:34:48 PM ET 2007-12-09T23:34:48

The first summit between Europe and Africa in seven years came to an acrimonious end Sunday with leaders squabbling over human rights and no progress on a looming trade pact deadline.

Old divisions surfaced at the two-day summit as leaders swapped accusations over the crises in Zimbabwe and Darfur, and postcolonial tensions deepened over free trade deals.

The World Trade Organization has ruled that the EU’s 30-year-old preferential trade agreement with Africa was unfair to other trading nations and violated international rules. New deals are meant to be finalized by Dec. 31.

Senegalese President Abdoulaye Wade said most African leaders had rejected the European Union’s free trade proposals, known as Economic Partnership Agreements, and wouldn’t discuss them further.

The proposals “aren’t in Africa’s interest,” Wade said in angry comments at a news conference.

Negotiations on the pacts — meant to replace colonial-era trading systems between Europe and its former colonies — have lasted five years and officials had hoped the summit would bring a breakthrough.

The EU is offering African governments unrestricted access to its 27-country market if they in turn grant tariff reductions for European goods — a measure Africans fear will make their less competitive local companies vulnerable.

African Union Commission President Alpha Oumar Konare said the EU had to give up its “colonial approach.”

“The riches of Africa must be paid for at a fair price,” he said.

Tensions over China influence
During previous talks, African governments have said the agreements would do little to boost their access to European markets. They also viewed the conditions as an EU attempt to meddle in African affairs.

Friction between the continents comes as many African countries are developing strong trade ties with China, whose influence has soared on the back of billions of dollars in aid and investment.

The EU is concerned that the search by China and other rising powers for oil and other resources across Africa comes with no demands for democracy and human rights. Africans, though, say the Chinese come willing to negotiate as equals.

Officials from both continents said the presence of more than 70 heads of government at the summit showed leaders on both continents wanted better relations. But they left the Portuguese capital with only a broad statement of intentions.

Human rights and aid groups expressed exasperation. Save the Children said in a statement the summit was “a high-profile exercise of little substance.”

African crises dog event
Differences over the human rights record of Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe and measures to help end the conflict in the western Sudanese region of Darfur dogged the event.

Asked what was his message to Europe as he arrived at the summit venue Sunday, Mugabe said nothing but raised his arm and made a fist.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said Saturday the EU was “united” in condemning Mugabe for what they view as his economic mismanagement, failure to curb corruption and contempt for democracy. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown stayed away from the summit in protest against Mugabe’s attendance.

Mugabe was reportedly scathing toward his European critics in his speech at a closed session.

“He said criticisms were trumped-up charges against Zimbabwe and the result of arrogance from the EU,” according to a European official who attended the summit, but who spoke on condition of anonymity because she was not authorized to discuss the details publicly.

Ghanian President John Kufuor, current chair of the AU, said the organization supports mediation efforts among Zimbabwe’s main political parties being led by South African President Thabo Mbeki and aimed at political reform. But he insisted that meddling from outside Africa would be unhelpful.

“We want to encourage a homegrown solution so there will be a restoration of normalcy and good governance for the people of Zimbabwe,” Kufuor said.

Officials argue over Darfur
Measures to help end the conflict in the western Sudanese region of Darfur were another point of contention.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir has so far refused to allow non-Africans into a 26,000-strong U.N.-A.U. peacekeeping force planned for Darfur. EU nations, meanwhile, have failed to come up with the needed military hardware to support the operation.

Sudan and United Nations envoys met on the sidelines of the summit. They said in a brief joint statement there had been “clarification” of some issues but gave no details.

On trade, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso acknowledged the difficulty of reaching free-trade deals between wealthy European countries and poor African nations.

“It is a challenge for both Africans and Europeans and will require time,” Barroso said in a speech to the gathering.

The World Trade Organization has ruled that the EU’s 30-year-old preferential trade agreement with Africa was unfair to other trading nations and violated international rules. New deals are meant to be finalized by Dec. 31.

The two sides will press ahead with talks on interim accords with individual African countries to assure they continue to enjoy privileged access to European markets, he said.

“We are nearly there and we now need to focus all of our energy to achieve this priority objective,” Barroso said.

© 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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