African nations have been asking for two rotating permanent seats with veto power as well as more non-permanent seats since 2005, given the continent has about 27 per cent of members at the UN, its size and the involvement of global powers on its territory.

France is pushing for a change proposed previously with the UK whereby non-permanent membership on the Security Council would be raised to 10 years instead of two now, without the right of veto, a French diplomatic source said.

China, the US, Russia, Britain and France are the permanent members of the Security Council.

Nigeria, Gabon and Uganda are among 10 members that hold rotating seats.

'Summit of renewal'

The Nice gathering has been touted as a "summit of renewal" and Sarkozy stressed that France needed to look to the future instead of "perpetuating the illusion of an outdated role".

This Africa-France summit is Sarkozy's first since taking office in 2007 and reflects France's shift away from its traditional West African allies towards engagement with the continent as a whole.

France is seeking to use the two-day gathering as a springboard for business deals.

"Africa is our future and will be a principle reservoir for world economic growth in the decades to come," Sarkozy said.

Alain Joyandet, France's development minister, said it would be "the summit of renewal, a sort of launch of a new era".

Breaking away from tradition, France has invited nearly 200 business leaders from France and Africa to this year's summit including heads of big French companies such as energy giant Total and nuclear firm Areva.

The push on the economic front comes as France has taken a back seat to China, Africa's biggest trade partner, which has injected billions over the past decade to tap into raw materials needed to fuel its hungry economy.