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Los Angeles Times
Bush visits Africa to make deals, tout HIV success:
James Gerstenzang
February 17, 2008
Dar es Salaam, Tanzania -- President Bush defended his decision to avoid Africa's most-troubled quarters on his trip across the continent's midsection Saturday, saying the United States is ready to help countries that make the "right choices."

For Bush, the trip underscores an effort over seven years to shift the way the United States does business with the developing world, tying government aid to anti-corruption campaigns and commercial ventures to free-trade commitments.

He said he wants to remind future U.S. presidents and Congresses that it is in America's national interest to provide foreign aid, but that rather than "making ourselves feel better ... our money ought to make the people of a particular country feel better about their government."

The president stopped in Benin, in western Africa, on his way across the continent to Tanzania, on the Indian Ocean, at the start of a six-day trip.

Each stop on the president's trip, his second to sub-Saharan Africa, is intended to demonstrate the success of Bush administration programs in fighting HIV and malaria and encouraging clean government.

But critics have said the president is sidestepping such trouble spots as Chad, Darfur and Tanzania's neighbor Kenya, where more than 1,000 people have died in post-election political violence in the past six weeks.

The assistant secretary of state for Africa, Jendayi Frazer, said the administration had "a very robust strategy of conflict resolution" that had succeeded in Congo and Liberia, saying, "There is a misperception about Africa in flames."

She said that Bush's agenda for discussion in Dar es Salaam today with Tanzanian President Jakaya Mrisho Kikwete probably will include the turmoil in Kenya, as well as the crisis in Chad, the site of a recent coup attempt, and a discussion of economically ravaged Zimbabwe and other crisis points in Africa.

Bush said just before he left Washington, D.C., that Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will fly to Kenya to encourage negotiations intended to end the political crisis there.

When he arrived in Benin on Saturday, he said that Rice will deliver "a clear message that there be no violence" to the two sides in conflict over the election results, adding that he favors a power-sharing agreement.

A senior administration official said Rice, who will visit Kenya on Monday, will seek to drive home to President Mwai Kibaki that he does not have unqualified support from the United States unless he steps back from his refusal to make a deal with the opposition.

Benin, where the president spent three hours, provides the examples of success that Bush is seeking to highlight: Under the Millennium Challenge Compact, the centerpiece of his efforts to reward anti-corruption efforts and provide development assistance linked to democracy, it is receiving $307 million over five years. That's the equivalent of roughly $40 per person, and a sizable sum in a nation where the per capita income is barely $2 a day.

Bush noted that under his emergency program for AIDS relief, 1.3 million people in Africa are receiving antiretroviral drugs to counter HIV and AIDS, and that one of the reasons for the trip was "to say, 'Look at the successes we've had,' " as well as to draw attention to continuing needs.

Critics have said that the AIDS program, which began five years ago with $15 billion, needs a $50 billion, five-year commitment. Bush is seeking to renew it at $30 billion.

The president said he is seeking "to send a clear signal to others that we want to help you, but you've got to have good leadership, you've got to make right choices, and you've got to set a strategy in place, in order to benefit your people."

Bush and Kikwete are expected to sign an agreement under which the Millennium Challenge program will provide almost $700 million to Tanzania, its single largest grant.