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US, Benin Presidents Discuss Darfur

U.S. President George Bush says he will continue to work through the United Nations to strengthen an African Union peacekeeping force in Sudan's Darfur region. VOA White House Correspondent Scott Stearns reports, Mr. Bush discussed the issue with the visiting president of Benin.

President Bush says resolving the humanitarian crisis in Darfur was a big part of his talks with Benin President Thomas Boni Yayi.

"The president recognized the genocide taking place in Darfur, as does the [U.S.] administration," said President Bush. "We want to work through the United Nations to have a very strong and capable AU force, augmented by United Nations help to save lives."

The underfunded African Union force has about seven-thousand troops at the center of a conflict that has claimed tens of thousands of lives and displaced more than two million people in nearly four years.

Khartoum has consistently refused to allow a U.N. force in Darfur. President Bush is backing a U.N. resolution that would convert all of the A.U. troops into an international peacekeeping operation.

During their White House talks, President Bush and President Yayi discussed Benin's involvement in American efforts to fight malaria and boost regional development through the U.S. Millennium Challenge Account.

"One thing I am impressed with is the president's commitment to democracy, rule of law, decency and education," he said. "And, to the extent that we can continue to help your country, Mr. President, we will do so. Welcome. I am glad you are here."

Earlier this year, Benin signed a $307-million compact through the Millennium Challenge Account to simplify the process of securing land titles and improve small-business access to financial services. The agreement also funds programs to improve the ability of Benin's judicial system to resolve claims and to increase exports by reducing delays at the Port of Cotonou.

President Yayi said African leaders are mindful of what needs to be done to boost their countries' standards of living.

"Africa is aware of her responsibility in the role she has to play, globally speaking, because we have to reach prosperity, and that prosperity has some conditions," said President Yayi. "We need peace. We need stability. We need security. And America has a leading role to play in restoring a peaceful continent."

President Yayi says he and President Bush discussed the Doha Round of world-trade talks and what he believes are prejudicial tariffs on cotton that hurt farmers in Benin, as well as those in Burkina Faso, Mali and Senegal.

"Some subsidizes granted to some countries, like America, here, cause a kind of disfunctioning in our country and on the continent also, so America should help us smooth this mechanism," he said.

President Yayi says he is encouraged by U.S. efforts to create a program to promote cotton production in developing nations, and hopes that will be part of the ultimate resolution of the issue before the World Trade Organization.