Bush promises US engagement in Africa

President Bush wrapped up a five-nation tour of Africa on Saturday with a promise to “be active” in war-torn Liberia and a warning to “terrorists” to stay out of the continent.

    Nigeria's President gets favoured treatment from Bush

    Liberia, trade and AIDS were high on the agenda on Saturday when Bush met privately with Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo.

    “Our assessment teams are still in place,” Bush told reporters. “I told the president we would, you know, be active. The definition of that will be made known when we understand all the parameters.”

    Bush is awaiting rep

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    orts from military experts, who are surveying the situation in the West African nation and involved in talks with regional leaders, before deciding whether to deploy US soldiers to help keep the peace in Liberia.

    Bush called again on Saturday for

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    Liberia's President Charles Taylor to fulfill his promise to step down so that peace can be restored. Taylor has promised to resign and accept asylum in Nigeria -- but only after an international force arrives to ensure an orderly transition.

    Bush also warned that he would not allow “terrorists” to threaten Africa or use it as a base to attack other countries.

     

    The Bush administration fears that, with al-Qaeda's camps in Afghanistan shut down and Middle East regimes under strong military and diplomatic pressure to crack down on militants, extremists may fall back on weak states in Africa.

     

    He spoke at a meeting of influential Africans and African Americans set up to promote co-operation and investment between Africa and the United States.

     

    Special treatment for Nigeria

     

    Nigerian vendors pour out fuel to
    resell to motorists at high rates
    amid an oilworkers' strike last week 

     

     

    Some Nigerian opposition leaders viewed Bush’s 18-hour stop in oil-rich Nigeria at the end of his African tour as bestowing undeserved recognition on a leader they accuse of gaining power through rigged elections.

    Obasanjo’s re-election in April was marred by fraud and scattered violence after coming to power in 1999, following a 15-year rule by a military dictatorship.

    Economics, and oil in particular, may be the main reason Nigeria is getting the special treatment from the United States.

    US oil imports from Africa, mostly Nigerian crude, have grown to about 17 percent and oil industry analysts say it may go up to 25 percent. US oil companies have a significant presence in the continent.

    Nigeria is the fifth largest exporter of oil to the United States.

    $15 Billion for AIDS

    The US president also met HIV/AIDS patients in Nigeria. Africa’s most populous country has a low infection rate of about 5 percent, but the White House says experts fear the rate could jump to about 25 percent by the end of the decade.

    Bush promoted new legislation that would distribute up to $15 billion dollars over five years from the United States to the fourteen African and Caribbean countries hardest hit with the infection.

    To Obasanjo, Bush said Saturday: "I appreciate your honesty and openness and forthrightness when it comes to battling the pandemic of AIDS.''

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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