- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 26, 2003

AIDS and Africa

African officials say President Bush’s trip to Africa next month will help focus more worldwide attention on AIDS, the most deadly disease on the continent.

Ugandan Ambassador Edith Ssempala said Mr. Bush’s decision to include her country on his trip shows that the White House recognizes Uganda’s efforts to combat the disease. Mr. Bush also will visit Botswana, Nigeria and South Africa on his July 8-12 trip.

“It is exciting that the president has chosen to visit Uganda, and we’re looking forward to the trip. But, considering our two countries’ strong relationship, I wasn’t really surprised,” she said this week at a forum sponsored by the Corporate Council on Africa and the International Economics Institute.

“Uganda has been a leader in facing issues like HIV/AIDS,” she said, referring to the human immunodeficiency virus, which causes the acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

Mr. Bush has called Uganda a model for the rest of Africa because of its educational and preventive programs that are believed to have arrested the spread of the disease in the central African nation.

Mrs. Ssempala also noted that Uganda is a strong U.S. ally in the war on terrorism.

She said, “We averted a terrorist attack on the U.S. Embassy” in 1998, the same years of bombing attacks on the American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Swaziland’s King Mswati III this week also noted U.S. support for the AIDS crisis in Africa, when he presented House Speaker J. Dennis Hastert with a plaque to express his appreciation for the $15 billion AIDS bill that Mr. Bush signed into law.

“The passage of this initiative shows the African people that the United States has come through for us momentarily,” the king told the Illinois Republican.

King Mswati is one of 13 African leaders who came to Washington for a business summit organized by the Corporate Council on Africa.

Herman Cohen, a former assistant secretary of state for African affairs, said Mr. Bush’s trip also signals his support for democratic nations in Africa.

“Those planned stops certainly underscore the Bush administration’s focus on business as the engine for change in Africa, as well as its commitment to help Africans battle deadly diseases,” he told the State Department’s Washington File news service.

“It also sends a signal to repressive regimes in countries like Togo and Zimbabwe that we value our development partnerships with governments committed to open political and economic reforms.”

C’est la vie

It is all over. We are friends again, mon ami. Kiss, kiss.

That is the message Howard H. Leach, the U.S. ambassador to France and a rock-ribbed Republican, delivered yesterday in a lengthy opinion piece in the French newspaper Le Figaro.

The devious diplomacy the French employed to try to block the U.S.-led war that toppled Saddam Hussein is history, he said. However, Mr. Leach did not address the issue of “freedom fries” and the boycott of French wine.

Mr. Leach declared a “new chapter” in U.S.-French relations.

“The disagreements that we had concerning the disarmament of Iraq now belongs to the past and to our history,” he wrote. “They are not forgotten, but each one of us gains by concentrating on the international problems to come.

“Our common objectives of peace, prosperity and freedom will continue to join us together to work on recognized priorities … like the Middle East, the rebuilding of Iraq and Afghanistan, world growth and durable development, the fight against the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and … the fight against AIDS.

“What we do today will determine … the world in which our children and grandchildren will live.”

Mr. Leach said the Paris Air Show and the Group of Eight summit in Evian, France, showed that Mr. Bush had forgiven French President Jacques Chirac. He said the reduced U.S. industrial presence at the air show was the result of a weak U.S. economy, not politics.

“As an observer of [the summit] and the air show …, I can testify that the first was a political success and the second a commercial success, in spite of the opinions of the media,” he said.

“The first meeting between President Chirac and President Bush since the disagreement over Iraq was an occasion of reconciliation.”

Call Embassy Row at 202/636-3297, fax 202/832-7278 or e-mail jmorrison@washingtontimes.com.

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