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US, Mongolia Sign Aid Agreement


Mongolia has become the latest country to get an infusion of U.S. development aid through the Millennium Challenge program, which links assistance to government reforms and accountability. VOA's Paula Wolfson reports, President Bush and his Mongolian counterpart signed the necessary paperwork Monday following talks at the White House.

The Millennium Challenge program was set up more than three years ago to provide assistance to countries that put in place specific reforms.

Mongolia is now set to get $285 million over the next five years. Most of it will go to modernizing the country's railroad system, with the rest going to land and education projects.

Mongolia's president, Nambaryn Enkhbayar, says these efforts will have a definite impact on poverty reduction in his country.

"It is indeed a great pleasure to be here in Washington, D.C. today to attend a ceremony, which lays down the beginnings of a new and important partnership between Mongolia and the United States," he said.

President Bush says he wants the Millennium Challenge program to continue and grow. And, as he prepared to sign the agreement with Mongolia, he urged the U.S. Congress to approve money to keep the program going.

"Congress must understand how important this program is for U.S. foreign policy," he said. "The Millennium Challenge Account has been effective. It has been effective across the world. It will be effective in Mongolia."

Mongolia is the 15th country to qualify for participation in the Millennium Challenge Account since the program was launched in 2004. The White House says it hopes to expand and sign aid contracts with three more African countries - Tanzania, Libya and Burkina Faso - over the next year.

All money dispensed by the program goes out with strong conditions attached. Among other things, governments must show they have the infrastructure in place to manage funded aid projects wisely, with no opportunities for corruption and waste.

President Bush traveled to Mongolia in 2005. As they wrapped up the signing ceremony, President Enkhbayar invited him to pay a return visit next August when Mr. Bush heads to neighboring China to attend the 2008 Summer Olympics.

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