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IN THE NEWS - Bush Visits Africa - 2003-07-13

Broadcast: July 12, 2003

This is Steve Ember with the VOA Special English program, In the News.

President Bush was in Africa this week to discuss the AIDS crisis, trade, African conflicts and the war on terrorism. He traveled to Senegal, South Africa, Botswana and Uganda, with a final stop in Nigeria.

Secretary of State Colin Powell said Thursday in South Africa that President Bush would decide soon whether to send peacekeeping troops to Liberia to enforce a cease-fire.

Rebels have been fighting forces loyal to Liberian President Charles Taylor in and around the capital, Monrovia. The recent fighting has killed hundreds of civilians and displaced thousands of others. Liberia has had conflict for much of the past fourteen years. The unrest has hurt the economy and left millions of people starving and homeless.

President Bush has said the United States would work with the United Nations and West African countries to help end the fighting. But he said Mister Taylor must leave office first.

Mister Taylor has said he will leave only after American soldiers arrive in the country, to avoid further unrest. The rebels have said that only Mister Taylor’s resignation would end the past four years of conflict.

Nigeria has offered Mister Taylor exile. It also promised not to surrender him to face a war crimes trial in Sierra Leone, if he would stay out of Liberian politics. Mister Taylor is accused of supplying weapons to rebels across the border in Sierra Leone in return for diamonds.

Negotiators meeting in Ghana Wednesday said West African nations plan to send one-thousand troops to Liberia within two weeks. Mister Powell said Mister Bush’s decision whether to send troops would be based on reports from American military advisers studying conditions there.

Liberia has close economic and cultural ties with the United States. It was settled in the early eighteen-hundreds by freed American slaves. They lived on land bought by a group of white Americans for the purpose of returning freed slaves to Africa.

U-N Secretary General Kofi Anan has repeatedly called on the United States to intervene in Liberia. He goes to Washington Monday to meet with President Bush to discuss the issue.

The United States has negotiated agreements for military cooperation with several African governments and provides anti-terrorism aid to others. But much of President Bush’s trip centered on his fifteen-thousand-million dollar program to fight the spread of AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean.

Uganda and Botswana are two of the countries to receive aid. Uganda’s aggressive prevention and treatment programs have reduced the infection rate to about five-percent of the population. Botswana, however, has one of the highest rates in the world. Almost forty-percent of adults have H-I-V, the virus that causes AIDS.

President Bush praised both countries for taking strong steps to deal with the AIDS crisis.

This VOA Special English program, In the News, was written by Cynthia Kirk. This is Steve Ember.