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US Congress, White House Smooth Over AIDS Legislation Differences - 2003-05-01

U.S. lawmakers and the White House have smoothed over some disagreements threatening to complicate debate Thursday on legislation to sharply expand U.S. funding for the global fight against AIDS. The House of Representatives is expected to approve a bill providing $15 billion in AIDS spending over five years.

The bill is widely supported by Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate, and President Bush gave his endorsement this week in a special White House ceremony.

But some conservatives objected to language they say emphasized condom use, rather than abstinence as the most effective way to prevent AIDS.

Tuesday, one key conservative, Congressman Joseph Pitts, told VOA the White House now supports two Republican-sponsored amendments aimed at resolving the most serious issues.

The bill to be debated Thursday by the House would provide $3-billion a year over five years to expand AIDS treatment in 14 African and Caribbean nations, through low-cost drugs.

It closely reflects what President Bush is seeking, but in its original form did not include stronger language sought by conservatives.

The president has urged the House and Senate to act quickly to get a final bill to his desk before the end of May.