Al-Qadhafi also urged African countries on Monday to overcome past failures during a speech that lasted more than half an hour.

"Pleading to the G8 to lift debts won't make a future for Africa," said al-Qadhafi. "We need cooperation between the big and the small countries in the world.

"Begging won't make a future for Africa," he added.

UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and Arab League Secretary-General Amr Mousa, too, attended the opening of the two-day meeting, held during a series of international protests and Live-8 concerts ahead of Wednesday's G8 meeting in Scotland.

Mammoth task

African leaders meeting in Sirte, a coastal city on Libya's Mediterranean coast, are expected to try to unite and push for at least one permanent seat on the UN Security Council. 

The summit is also expected to discuss conflicts in Africa, particularly the Darfur crisis, and issue an international appeal to help the continent battle disease and famine during the two-day summit.

The 53-nation African Union (AU) was created in 2002 as the successor to the Organisation of African Unity.

Modelled after the European Union with an executive commission, a pan-African parliament and a court of justice, the AU is based in Addis Ababa in Ethiopia.

Its focus is to spread democracy, human rights and economic development across the African continent.