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Bush hopes to promote his initiatives in Africa

But Liberia questions might dominate president's trip

President Bush says that it's in the interest of the United States to see that Africa prospers.
President Bush says that it's in the interest of the United States to see that Africa prospers.

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President Bush plans to promote his efforts to fight the spread of AIDS in Africa during a five-country tour of the continent. CNN's George Bauer reports (July 7)
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WASHINGTON (CNN) -- As President Bush departed for Africa on Monday, where he plans to promote his administration's efforts to fight the spread of AIDS on the continent, his advisers are debating whether to send troops to war-torn Liberia.

His visit will take him to Senegal, South Africa, Botswana, Nigeria and Uganda.

Bush said he hopes the visit will highlight his proposed five-year, $15 billion initiative to fight AIDS in Africa and the Caribbean. He said he also hopes to strengthen ties between Africa and the United States.

"I'll be carrying a message to the African people that, first, America cares about the future of Africa," Bush said last week in an interview with African journalists. "It's in our national interest that Africa become a prosperous place; it's in our interest that people will continue to fight terror together; it's in our interest that when we find suffering, we deal with it."

But Joseph Siegle, a Council on Foreign Relations analyst, said Bush's trip was in danger of being overshadowed by the situation in Liberia, where U.S. troops might intervene to ease a humanitarian crisis sparked by a three-year-old civil war.

"The crisis in Liberia will command a lot of attention, as the interviews senior administration officials have given this past week have shown," Siegle said. "However, I don't think it will completely commandeer the agenda that the administration has set for the whole trip."

Bush said he will promote his administration's efforts to encourage development and ease suffering in Africa. He also plans to highlight a $100 million plan to fight terrorism in East Africa, and a five-year, $600 million education initiative.

Bush said he would give a speech about "race in the world." He also promised to reaffirm his support for genetically modified foods, something that he said could ease famine in parts of Africa but an idea that has been met with resistance in parts of Europe.

The president acknowledged that he hopes his trip will elevate the image of the United States in Africa, which some say has declined since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March.

"There was kind of an attachment to the word 'America' with war," Bush said. "What they're going to find out, the word 'freedom' and 'America' are synonymous. That's what we believe. We believe in freedom."

Once Africans learn the facts, Bush said, they'll conclude, "Well, this is a great country."

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