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Powell Urges African Leaders to End Regional Feuds

Secretary of State Colin Powell urged African leaders Friday to end regional feuds and conflicts, and to fight instead for good governance, and an end to corruption and disease. He told an African economic conference in Washington Friday the continent's future economic prospects depend not on foreign aid but on attracting foreign investment.

Mr. Powell's largely-economic message to the U.S.-African Business Summit came a day after a more pointed political address to the same gathering by President Bush, who begins his first trip to Africa in less than two weeks.

The secretary of state, who will accompany Mr. Bush on the five-nation journey, lamented that economic development in large parts of Africa is retarded by unresolved conflicts like those in Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and Sudan.

He urged Africans to end old feuds and battles, and "ridiculous arguments that are no longer worth fighting about," and to focus instead on battling for the rule of law and transparency, and an end to corruption that has chased away foreign investors and capital.

"Let me say this as clearly as I can," he said. "Unless you fight corruption, unless you eliminate it, unless you put transparency into your systems, unless we make sure that every African nation that wants to be part of this 21st century globalizing move that's under way, this movement that's under way, unless you have a solid foundation of the rule of law, you will not be successful. You must end corruption, you must have the rule of law, you must have transparency in your systems."

Mr. Powell signed an agreement at the event providing some $30 million in U.S.-government guaranteed loans for the rehabilitation of the Indian Ocean port of Nacala in Mozambique, and the Nacala Corridor rail line from the port city through Malawi into eastern Zambia.

He said the project is going forward not just because it is technically feasible but because peace and free-market economies now prevail in the region, including Mozambique which was torn by civil conflict for more than a decade until a peace accord in 1992.

"The real prerequisite for this project was peace," said Secretary of State Powell. "Was the region stable? Could you peacefully invest in a project like this? No peace: no railroad, no port. A decade ago war raged across these three countries and the railroad could not have been built. We were able to sign today's agreement only because the leaders and people of these three nations showed the courage and the wisdom to turn their backs on conflict, to turn their backs on old disputes, and to move forward with development of their people."

Mr. Powell said investment capital "is a coward" that flees war and corruption, and only goes where risk is understood and received with rewards.

He urged more African countries to secure sovereign credit ratings with international agencies, saying the seven African states which currently do have such ratings enjoy "a leg up," or advantage, over others seeking investments.