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Bush to Meet with East African Leaders Thursday - 2002-12-04

President Bush meets with East African leaders at the White House Thursday to discuss security in the region, following last week's bombing of an Israeli-owned hotel in Kenya. President Bush believes al-Qaida terrorists were involved in that attack.

President Bush meets Thursday with Kenyan President Daniel arap Moi and Ethiopian Prime Minister Meles Zenawi to discuss the fight against terrorism in East Africa.

They are also to discuss how the lack of a central government in Somalia affects regional security. Somalia has been without a federal authority for more than 10 years, and that absence has led to insecurity in both neighboring Kenya and Ethiopia.

Ethiopia has battled Islamic separatists based in Somalia by sending troops into the country. Kenya has seen a rise in violent crime that is partly attributable to a flood of automatic weapons across the border since Somalia's government collapsed in 1991.

It is that porous border that concerns U.S. officials, especially in light of reports that the Somali group al-Itihaad al-Islamyia may have been involved in the bombing on the Kenyan coast.

That group is said to have ties with al-Qaida terrorists who President Bush believes also played a part in last week's attack. The United States accuses al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden of planning the 1998 bombings of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, as well as last year's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.

Mr. Bush says the Kenya attack shows the need to continue to work together to disrupt terrorist networks.

"The free world recognizes the threats that we all face, and therefore we are more bound together than we have ever been in cutting off money, in sharing intelligence, and bringing people to justice. It is a dangerous world we live in because there are still terrorists on the loose," the president said.

President Bush and President Moi are expected to discuss the ongoing investigation into last week's bombing and a nearly simultaneous attempt to shoot-down an Israeli-chartered passenger jet.

With Prime Minister Meles, Mr. Bush is also expected to discuss the state of a two-year-old cease-fire, which stopped the border war between Ethiopia and Eritrea.