- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 30, 2001

President Bush said yesterday the United States will support "responsible debt relief" for heavily indebted African nations that use the funds for such infrastructure improvements as education and health care.

Speaking at the African Growth and Opportunity Act forum at the State Department, Mr. Bush also thanked countries supporting the U.S.-led campaign against terror and urged them to ratify a 1999 convention that would provide new tools for the fight.

"My government will continue its strong support for responsible debt relief so that nations can devote more resources to education and health," he said. "We will continue to press multilateral development banks to provide more assistance in the form of grants instead of loans."

Mr. Bush also announced that the Overseas Private Investment Corp. would provide $200 million to promote more U.S. investment in sub-Saharan Africa by giving firms access to loans, guarantees and political risk insurance.

He said U.S. trade officials will establish a regional office in Johannesburg to help governments and businesses in loosening trade laws to improve the investment climate in Africa, and set up a $15 million trade-development program to help African businesses gain access to the global market.

"In an era of global trade and global terror, the futures of the developed world and the developing world are closely linked," Mr. Bush told finance and trade ministers from 35 countries. "We are not immune from each other's troubles. We share the same threats, and we share the same goal, to forge a future of more openness, trade and freedom."

A summit of African leaders in Dakar, Senegal, on Oct. 20 issued a declaration against terrorism that stopped short of embracing the Algiers Convention, adopted in 1999 in response to the bombing of U.S. embassies in East Africa a year earlier.

The terrorist acts in Kenya and Tanzania, in which 12 Americans and more than 200 Africans were killed, were blamed on Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network, which was also the main suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks on New York and Washington.

The Algiers convention has been signed by 36 of Africa's 53 governments, but only three have ratified it. Mr. Bush said its ratification is crucial because it would give African nations "additional judicial, diplomatic and financial tools to root out terrorism."

"As nations begin to put these measures in place, the United States will look for ways to work together," he said.

"I know we can defeat terror defeat terror now so that our children and grandchildren can grow up in free societies."

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