- The Washington Times - Friday, May 11, 2001

Focus on Africa
Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo is due to meet President Bush today, as Secretary of State Colin Powell makes plans to visit Africa.
Mr. Obasanjo, the first civilian president of Nigeria in 17 years, is the first African leader to meet with Mr. Bush. U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan also is expected to meet with the two presidents to discuss plans to combat the AIDS crisis in Africa.
"Fighting the war on AIDS, both at home and in Africa," is a "top priority" for Mr. Bush, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said yesterday.
"The president has always said that Africa is an important focus of our foreign policy," Mr. Fleischer added.
As proof of that, Mr. Bush is sending Mr. Powell to Mali, South Africa, Kenya and Uganda, beginning May 22, to review the AIDS crisis.
About 26 million Africans are infected with the AIDS virus HIV, representing more than two-thirds of the cases worldwide. Of the 23 million killed by the disease, 17 million were Africans.
"Nations will collapse if we dont fix these problems," Mr. Powell said yesterday at a congressional hearing on the State Departments budget.

Praising Bahrain
The emir of Bahrain concluded a successful visit to Washington this week, where President Bush praised him as a strong ally and close friend of the United States.
Mr. Bush congratulated Emir Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa for supporting human rights, even though a State Department report was critical of the governments record on political and labor rights.
"Hes been on the leading edge of reform, believes in human rights, and he believes in the full participation of the people of his land," Mr. Bush told reporters after a White House meeting with the emir on Monday.
The emir noted that his country has had diplomatic relations with the United States for more than 100 years.
"I am sure America will do a great thing and move forward in all fields for the stability and security, mainly of my region, the Gulf region," he said.
Later in the week, he met Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld to discuss security issues in the Persian Gulf.
The emir told reporters the "main mission" of his visit was "to talk about how we can achieve our objective of more development in our region and this world."
"All the United States leadership and presidents have taken great interest in the security of our region, just like the people of our region that want to live in peace so they can develop and can enjoy life," he said.
Mr. Bush and Mr. Rumsfeld diplomatically skirted a critical State Department human rights report that cited Bahrain for its ban on political parties and restrictions on labor unions.
"Bahrain is a hereditary emirate with few democratic institutions and no political parties," the report said.
It added that the government "generally respected its citizens human rights in some areas."

Reassuring Sri Lanka
The foreign minister of Sri Lanka received the commitment he wanted on his recent Washington visit, although he insisted he came here only to meet the new administration, not to lobby it.
Lakshman Kadirgamar told reporters that Secretary of State Colin Powell reasserted U.S. opposition to a separate homeland for Tamil rebels that both countries considered terrorists.
Mr. Powell also reassured him that the Bush administration would continue to include the Tamil Tigers on the list of foreign terrorist organizations after a routine annual review.
"I didnt come to ask for anything ," Mr. Kadirgamar said after his 45-minute meeting with Mr. Powell last week. He said his visit was mainly to introduce himself to the new administration.
"Sri Lanka has always had very cordial relations with the U.S., and we wished to express our appreciation of the collective stand taken by the past and present U.S. administrations in supporting Sri Lankas unity, sovereignty and territorial integrity," he added.
He told Mr. Powell that Sri Lanka was committed to a negotiated end to the civil war and favored more self-government for the Tamil area of the country.
"There is no doubt that South Asia is going to be very much in focus in U.S. foreign policy from now on," he said.


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