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French President Jacques Chirac, right, talks with Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper, centre, and Congolese President Denis Sassou-Ngueso at the Francophonie summit in Bucharest, Romania, on Thursday. ((Vadim Ghirda/Associated Press))

Prime Minister Stephen Harper is calling on members of la Francophonie to play a key role in easing tensions around the world.

Harper, who is in Romania for the opening of the summit of French-speaking countries, said la Francophonie nations must become major players in efforts to promote peace and reconciliation internationally.

"La Francophonie must contribute to easing the tensions and conflicts that affect us," Harper said Thursday.

The prime minister cited Haiti, Sudan and Afghanistan as among the countries that are in need of help.

The prime minister told the summit that about 100 Canadian police officers are among an international force in Haiti to re-establish political stability.

"It's an enormous task that encompasses judicial reform, social and economic reconstruction and, above all, national reconciliation and the strengthening of democratic institutions," he said.

In Sudan, where a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the Darfur region, Harper urged francophone countries to do all they can to restore security and reduce trafficking in arms.

In the Middle East, the international community must respect the commitments that have been made to reconstruct various countries and provide the promised aid as quickly as possible, he added.

In addition to the military aid in Afghanistan, "the future depends as much on the contribution of educators, engineers and electoral advisers," Harper said.

He reminded delegates that Canada has promised $1 billion in aid to Afghanistan over 10 years and has lost many soldiers fighting Taliban insurgents.

Chirac pleads for peace

Just before Harper spoke, French President Jacques Chirac made his own plea for peace.

"There is no possible horizon for our world or for la Francophonie without peace," Chirac told delegates. "The tragedy that has just bloodied Lebanon reminds us of that.

"At a time when the world is victim to intense upheaval, la Francophonie is more important than ever."

Harper also reminded delegates that the next meeting of the summit will take place in 2008 in Quebec City, when the city celebrates its 400th anniversary.

"French is the founding language of Canada," Harper said, adding that the anniversary is a historic occasion for all of Canada.

He also urged member states to ratify a UN convention on cultural diversity.

The convention must be signed by at least 30 countries by June 2007 to be adopted by UNESCO and so far only 11 countries have done so. Canada was the first.