December 9th, 2006 04:47 EST
Bush, South African President Discuss Darfur at White House
Washington -- President Bush and visiting South African President Thabo Mbeki, meeting at the White House December 8, discussed a number of issues of mutual concern to their nations, including the need speedily to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the Darfur region of Sudan.
At a press conference following the meeting, Bush said he had a "great discussion" with Mbeki over "a wide range of subjects."
Describing U.S.-South African relations as "strong and good," Bush said the two talked about South Africa's "commitment to fighting HIV/AIDS and our willingness to provide over $600 million to the folks in South Africa to help deal with this terrible pandemic."
On the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, Bush said: "I expressed my concerns about the situation with the president. He shares my concerns that the situation is dire. And now is the time for action."
Bush said the two leaders discussed "the need for South Africa and the United States and other nations to work with the Sudanese government to enable a peacekeeping force into that country to facilitate aid and save lives."
The two also discussed Iran and the Middle East, Bush added.
On the economic front, Bush said Mbeki was "concerned about whether or not the World Trade Organization [Doha] round will go forward."
The Doha Round is a set of negotiations under the World Trade Organization (WTO) process aimed at making trade rules fairer for developing countries. Roadblocks have been thrown up by some countries in the trade organization that are reluctant to open their agricultural markets to African products.
Bush said he and Mbeki “recognize that trade will lift more people out of poverty than any other mechanism. And I told the president I am committed to the [Doha] round. I believe in trade. And I believe in the necessity of trade. And so we'll work to see if we can't get that issue solved."
Mbeki said, "Of immediate importance to us is the support we get from the president and the U.S. government with regard to the resolution of … African conflicts.”
In that regard, he added, "We are, all of us, keenly interested that we must increase the troops deployed in Darfur."
Such a deployment is "very urgent, very necessary," said Mbeki. And he pledged, "We will absolutely do everything to make sure that, from the African side, we remove any obstacle there might be to such bigger deployment in Darfur."
The impact of the violence in Darfur on neighboring countries, "particularly Chad and the Central African Republic," also came up for discussion, the South African president told journalists.
Mbeki said Somalia was also a hot topic in his meeting with Bush, adding that the two leaders are "very keen that, indeed, something must move there."
Mbeki pointed out that Somalia is "a failed state" and "a base for terrorists" who could spread out to the rest of the continent. “It's something that is of shared [U.S.-South African] concern,” he said.
He added that it is "necessary to support the transitional government" on the road to reunifying the country.
On the Doha Round, the South African president said he was “very, very reassured” by Bush’s expressed commitment to the success of the WTO negotiations. “It's a very important part, in terms of addressing the agenda of the poor of the world. We need these market access issues addressed," Mbeki said.
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