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Transcript of VOA Interview with President Bush on African Issues

Transcript of interview with President Bush by VOA Africa Division reporter Vincent Makori, 3 July 2003

Q Mr. President, if the U.S. were to send a peacekeeping force to Liberia, what role would it play, and what limitations will it have?

PRESIDENT BUSH: I haven't made up my mind, Vincent, whether we are going to send a so-called peacekeeping force. I have made up my mind there needs to be stability in Liberia. And one of the conditions for a peaceful and stable Liberia is for Mr. Charles Taylor to leave the country. And so we are working the issue now. And I say "we," it's of course the secretary of state -- the very capable Colin Powell -- is working with Kofi Annan, who is also working with others on the continent to facilitate that type of move.

As well, there was a meeting today with ECOWAS leadership as to what the nature of a so-called peacekeeping force might look like. And that's very important information for me, the decisionmaker on this issue, to understand what the recommendations might be. I have yet to get those recommendations, but I expect I will in the next couple of days.

Q Mr. President, you have asked Mr. Charles Taylor to step down for the sake of peace. What would be your response to him if he does not heed your advice?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Oh, I think we'll have to wait, Vincent, on that. You know, I suspect he will, so therefore I'm an optimistic person. I'm not going to take no for an answer. My hope is he -- it's not only my voice; it's the voice of a lot of others saying the same thing, and I think it's very important for us to be positive about having a good outcome.

Q And given the historical ties between the United States and Liberia, does the U.S. have a moral obligation to intervene in Liberia?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, there is no question there is a unique relationship between Liberia and the United States. And I suspect that's why we are -- and I don't suspect -- I know that's why we are very much engaged in the discussions about how to bring a peaceful and secure Liberia to be. I mean, it's -- yes, there is a unique history between the United States and Liberia.

Q Mr. President, all this boils down to leadership. What is the best thing the U.S. can do to discourage this particular dictatorial rulership in Africa and promote democracy?

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, I appreciate that question. One thing is we can help deal with the AIDS pandemic. A society which is ravaged by AIDS is a society which is likely to be unstable. And therefore if we can bring good health care to the millions who suffer, and love to the orphans that have -- whose parents might have died from AIDS -- it makes it easier to have a stable platform for growth.

Secondly, trade. I'm a big backer of what they call AGOA, which is the trade agreements between African countries and the United States. Trade is more likely to make societies prosperous. Our aid program needs to have -- needs to promote the habits necessary for the evolution of a free society. We are not going to give money to corrupt rulers. We are not going to give money to non-transparent societies. The American taxpayer and this American president believes that in return for aid, and we've got a generous amount of aid available -- we expect people to take care of their people by educating them and creating good health care. We expect there to be market-oriented economies growing, and we expect the rulers to be thoughtful and mindful of who they represent, and that is the people of their country, not themselves or their ruling elite.

Q Mr. President, in the area of terrorism, which parts of Africa do you consider the "hot spots" for terrorism and what role is the U.S. playing, especially with the regional leaders, to assure that you are achieving --

PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, unfortunately a hot-spot now is your country, Kenya, and we are very closely working with the government there. And I will tell you the Kenyan government is very strong when it comes to fighting terror. The best thing we can do is share intelligence, is to work closely with the intelligence-gathering services of a particular country, and then when we find information provide that information and encourage the government to act. And Kenya has done a good job of working with the United States to protect Kenya. And that's what we want. We want people to be able to defend themselves against terror. And unfortunately some terrorists have been -- and this has all come to light recently -- obviously there was a bombing in Kenya and now there looks like there may be some action there as well. But the government is making some very strong moves.

Q Thank you very much Mr. President.

PRESIDENT BUSH: Vincent, thank you sir. Congratulations.