A senior officials' meeting of the New Asian-African Strategic Partnership (NAAP) began in Durban on Friday, the foreign affairs department said.

Department spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa said 72 countries and several observer organisations attended the meeting.

"The afternoon session was dominated by a heated debate revolving around the participation of the Saharawi Arab Democratic Republic (SADR). The debate rotated around rules of procedure and the invitations extended by the host to different entities," Mamoepa said in a statement.

He said acting minister of Foreign Affairs Zola Skweyiya addressed the meeting on Friday.

"He (Skweyiya) stressed the significance of a close working relationship between the peoples of the two continents. He reminded the delegates of the historic 1955 Conference in Bandung and the gains registered over the five decades."

The NAAP was established at the 2005 Asian-African Summit in Indonesia.

Mamoepa said the meeting would end on Sunday with the adoption of a joint declaration charting the way forward until the 2009 summit. - Sapa