- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 23, 2000

President Clinton is satisfied with South Africa's efforts to help stop the violence in neighboring Zimbabwe and did not pressure South African President Thabo Mbeki to do more on that front during their talks yesterday, a White House official said.
"President Mbeki is, already, as was apparent by the discussion, extremely active in doing a great deal to try to end the violence and also bring about resolution of the underlying problems," said a White House official familiar with the presidents' talks.
"So there was absolutely no need to pressure him to do that," the official said.
The two leaders also pledged yesterday to work together to combat an escalating AIDS crisis by getting drugs to those who need them at affordable prices.
The visiting South African leader, who succeeded Nelson Mandela last June, denied emphatically that he has brushed off the use of AZT as "necessarily a good drug in fighting [AIDS]."
"Pure invention. Pure invention," he said. "I've never said that."
On Zimbabwe, another White House official said Mr. Clinton did not criticize South Africa's low-profile efforts to end the bloodshed.
"We are very grateful for, and impressed by, Mr. Mbeki's very energetic efforts to deal with the situation in Zimbabwe," the official said.
President Mbeki "has been a very active player … in trying to not only broker better understanding between Zimbabwe and the other states in the region and the United States and the United Kingdom, but also in helping to conceive of and craft concrete solutions that can move the process forward."
Mr. Clinton and Mr. Mbeki agree there needs to be a two-track solution to the situation. Zimbabwe must resolve issues of land distribution. At the same time, Zimbabwe must halt the violence, establish the rule of law and agree to hold free and fair elections.
The leaders agreed that the involvement of the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) in a land-distribution program is important to depoliticize the land question, the officials said.
Mr. Mbeki, in remarks after his arrival ceremony at the White House, said "urgent and extraordinary measures" were necessary to fight AIDS, other diseases, poverty and conflicts on the African continent.
Mr. Clinton noted that progress already had been made in the fight against AIDS.
"You've got these five big pharmaceutical companies now that say they're going to help," he said.
Five companies said last week they would cut the price of treatment for HIV and AIDS, an offer South Africa said left prices still too high and would necessitate a continued search for less expensive generic drugs.
The five companies, according to U.N. offices in Geneva, are Boeringer-Ingeheim, Bristol-Myers Squibbs, La Roche F. Hoffman, Glaxo-Wellcome and Merck & Co.
Mr. Mbeki emphasized that the problem of AIDS and other diseases such as tuberculosis and malaria should be understood in the context of underdevelopment, shortages of the required capital, crippling debt burdens and regional conflicts.
While "most of humanity" is saddled with these problems, Mr. Mbeki said, "We witness on the other side of the same universe an abundance of resources and an unprecedented economic prosperity occasioned in great measure by vast technological advances."
To demonstrate his commitment to battling AIDS, the South African president appeared before reporters wearing a red AIDS awareness pin on the lapel of his dark blue suit.
There are currently about 4 million people in South Africa who are HIV positive, out of a population of almost 40 million, according to Claudine Mtshali, a South African Embassy health official.
While Mr. Mbeki stresses the need for affordable drugs, the pharmaceutical companies are pressing suits claiming an infringement of patent rights stemming from South Africa's efforts to buy the drugs from lower-priced third parties.
Faced with an escalation of HIV and AIDS, Mr. Mbeki has launched studies on the effectiveness of drugs such as AZT in combating AIDS.

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