Delegates at the African Union summit on Monday agreed that Ghana would assume the leadership of the 53-memberorganization amid widespread opposition to Sudan's candidacy.

AU commission head Alpha Oumar Konare told reporters at the summit in Addis Ababa that Ghanaian President John Kufuor would be the AU's chairperson for the next year.

"By consensus vote, President (John) Kufuor of Ghana has been elected to the presidency of the African Union," saidKonare.

Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir arrived at the summit with plans to take over the rotating chairmanship of the organization.He was supposed to take over the post in 2006, but it was given to Republic of Congo's president because of alleged human rights abuses by the Sudanese military in the Darfur region.

As many as 200,000 people have been killed and 2.5 million displaced by violence between rebel groups battling the government-backed Arab militias.

Chad had threatened to quit the organization if Sudan got the post.

Observers say the situation in Darfur is much worse than it was a year ago and aid agencies report that escalating violence is making it increasingly difficult to help those in the region. A number of aid groups say their operations in the country are on the brink of collapse.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon opened the summit by calling on African leaders to back the deployment of a joint UN-African force in Sudan, a move Bashir has repeatedly blocked. Roughly 7,000 African Union peacekeepers are already in the country.

"We must work to end the violence and scorched earth policies adopted by various parties, including militias, as well as the bombings which are still a terrifying feature of life in Darfur," Ban told African leaders including Bashir. "The toll of the crisis remains unacceptable."

After holding talks with Bashir later Monday, Ban said he and the Sudanese presidentagreed "to accelerate joint African Union-United Nations efforts for the political process and the preparation for a peacekeeping mission."

With files from the Associated Press