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DURBAN, South Africa -- African leaders have called on the U.S. and Europe to apologise for their part in the colonial slave trade but are divided on whether to insist on reparations.

A string of leaders told the World Conference Against Racism that Western powers should say "sorry" for 400 years of slavery.

Nigerian leader Olusegun Obasanjo said on the second day of the eight-day conference: "We must demonstrate the political will and assume the responsibility for the historical wrongs that are owed to the victims of slavery, that an apology be extended by states which actively practiced and benefited themselves from slavery."

Germany responded to the call when its foreign minister Joschka Fischer said recognition of guilt was the way to restore to the victims and their descendants "the dignity of which they were robbed."

"I should therefore like to do that here and now on behalf of the Federal Republic of Germany," he was reported by Reuters as saying.

Spain's labour and social affairs minister Juan Carlos Aparicio was due to express "regret" at its part in the slave trade, but fell short of an outright apology.

"We profoundly regret the injustices and sufferings of the past," he said.

A split became apparent on Saturday over the issue of reparations to the descendents of slavery.

Obasanjo said an apology would be enough, and that he did not want to encourage any money claims.

But Cape Verde President Pedro Verona Rodrigues Peres called for voluntary reparations and financial support for Africa.

Cuba's President Fidel Castro said the U.S. has an "unavoidable moral duty" to pay reparations to both American Indians and African countries.

"After the purely formal slavery emancipation, African-Americans were subjected during 100 more years to the harshest racial discrimination, and many of its features still persist," he was quoted by The Associated Press as saying.

"Cuba speaks of reparations, and supports this idea as an unavoidable moral duty to the victims of racism."

The U.S. and Europe shipped 11 million Africans to the Americas, but have opposed a formal apology for the slave trade, fearing potential litigation back home.