- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 21, 2008

ACCRA, Ghana — The idea that the United States wants to expand its military presence into Africa and build permanent bases there is “baloney,” President Bush said yesterday.

“We do not contemplate any new bases,” Mr. Bush said at a press conference with Ghana’s president, John Kufuor.

“I know there’s rumors in Ghana, ‘All Bush is coming to do is try to convince you to put a big military base here,’ ” Mr. Bush said. “That’s baloney. Or as we say in Texas, that’s bull.”

Mr. Bush clarified that “that doesn’t mean we won’t develop some kind of office somewhere in Africa.”

He said that the U.S. African Command, or Africom, “is a unique command structure for America … aiming to help provide military assistance to African nations so [they] are more capable of dealing with African conflicts, like peacekeeping.”

But before he was asked a question at the press conference, Mr. Bush defended Africom.

There has been some concern among African political and military leaders, according to news reports, about U.S. intent in establishing Africom, which Mr. Bush announced one year ago this month.

Liberia, which Mr. Bush and first lady Laura Bush will visit today, has expressed interest in having Africom headquartered there. But following concerns raised by African nations, the U.S. has indicated the headquarters likely will be in Germany.

And Africom was the first issue raised with Mr. Bush by celebrity advocate Bob Geldof in an interview on board Air Force One Tuesday.

Mr. Geldof told reporters he was concerned that the U.S. was responding to China’s economic expansion in Africa with “militarization.”

Asked about Chinese development on the continent, Mr. Kufuor said, “How can we stop China? We can’t stop China. We are related, and we have common values,” he said.

Mr. Bush said he did not view Chinese expansion as a threat.

“Do I view China as a fierce competitor on the continent of Africa? No, I don’t,” Mr. Bush said, articulating that he views trade and development as a positive development for Africans.

Mr. and Mrs. Bush spent the day in Ghana yesterday and will leave for Liberia this morning, before flying home in the evening.

Also yesterday, Mr. Bush congratulated Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf for holding elections on Monday that resulted in parliamentary losses for Mr. Musharraf’s political party.

“I appreciate the fact that President Musharraf has done exactly what he has said he was going to do. He said he was going to have free elections. He said he was going to get rid of military law,” Mr. Bush said. “The people have spoken. I view that as a victory in the war on terror.”

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