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Bush makes first stops on African tour in Tanzania, Benin

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  • NEW: Tanzania, Benin thank President Bush for anti-AIDS efforts, other U.S. help
  • NEW: President, first lady visit two countries at start of six-day Africa tour
  • Bush: Benin leaders keen to fight corruption, careful to spend aid wisely
  • Condoleezza Rice will visit Kenya to back efforts to end political crisis there
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DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania (CNN) -- Billboards and dancers wearing President Bush's likeness on Saturday welcomed the U.S. leader to Tanzania, the second stop on his and first lady Laura Bush's five-nation African tour.


Benin President Thomas Yayi Boni embraces President Bush on Saturday in Cotonou.

Enthusiastic crowds lined the road from Dar es Salaam's airport to the hotel where the Bushes were to stay. Billboards along the road expressed thanks to the president for anti-AIDS efforts and other U.S. help.

The tour began Saturday morning in the West African nation of Benin. Bush also will visit Rwanda, Ghana and Liberia.

President Thomas Yayi Boni of Benin thanked Bush for the hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. aid aimed at fighting poverty, malaria and HIV/AIDS in his country. He also asked for help with Benin's struggling cotton exports.

Bush said he chose Benin to start his six-day Africa tour because its leaders were determined to fight corruption and were careful to make sure U.S. aid dollars were properly spent.

"This is such a good lesson. One of the reasons I've come here, sir, is that leaders around the world have got to understand that the United States wants to partner with leaders and their people, but we're not going to do so with people who steal money, pure and simple," Bush told Boni.

With the first lady at his side, Bush was inducted into the National Order of Benin, and Boni gave the U.S. president a sash, medal and lapel pin to match his own. Video Watch as Bush looks to Africa as part of his legacy »

"I stand here by your side as a friend, a believer in your vision and a partner in your willingness to confront the disease and poverty that affect mankind," Bush said to Boni. "We would not be standing here if you and your government was not committed to your people."

He continued, "You mentioned some of the money we're spending with you, but those dollars come with great compassion for your people. We care when we see suffering."

At a news conference later, Boni said it was tough for Benin to compete with Asian cotton producers because of their superior infrastructure and with U.S. cotton growers because of government subsidies.

Bush said the United States is willing to make concessions as part of the World Trade Organization's Doha negotiations that would help Benin, but he added the country's best strategy might be to develop industry with its cotton instead of exporting raw materials.

The United States has given Benin $307 million in a five-year grant to fight poverty, part of Bush's Millennium Challenge Account, which provides aid to countries that the administration says practice democratic principles and sound economic policy.

The trip -- Bush's second to the continent and his wife's fifth -- largely will focus on U.S. aid programs, which include initiatives to combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and poverty.

On Sunday, Bush will sign a compact with Tanzania through which the United States will provide a $698 million Millennium Challenge grant.

Also while in Tanzania, Bush will attend a roundtable on another one of his programs, Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief. The administration has said it's the "largest commitment ever by any nation for an international health initiative dedicated to a single disease."

Bush said he has requested $30 billion over the next five years for the program.

The plan has helped produce a "dramatic increase in anti-viral drugs," with a "significant" number of people being exposed to U.S. programs for AIDS prevention, said Joel Barkan, a senior associate for the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

But Barkan said the program remains controversial because fewer condoms are provided now than under the Clinton administration and because the United States does "virtually nothing on sex education."

From Tanzania, the Bushes will head to Rwanda, where they will meet with President Paul Kagame.

The United States has provided nearly 7,000 Rwandan troops with training and spent more than $17 million to equip and transport Rwandan troops for service in Sudan, according to national decurity adviser Stephen Hadley.

Years of violence in Sudan's western Darfur region have killed roughly 200,000 people and displaced at least 2 million. Nomadic Arab militias -- allegedly allied with the Sudanese government -- have targeted black Africans in what Bush has called genocide.

After Rwanda, the Bushes will travel to Ghana and then to Liberia.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who also is on the trip, will veer off Monday to Kenya to support efforts to reach a political conciliation there.

The country erupted in ethnic violence after its December 27 presidential vote. Oppositon leader Raila Odinga has blasted President Mwai Kibaki, saying his re-election was rigged and declining to recognize it as valid.

Violence has declined as former U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan mediates talks between the two groups.

Bush's trip to Africa is "basically an effort to celebrate successes," Barkan said. Most Americans picture Africa as a "continent of gloom and doom," and the president's message is that the bigger picture is one of "making progress."


But Barkan added, "The question might be asked why he's not going to a number of countries," in particular the regional powers of Kenya, South Africa and Nigeria.

"If the election in Kenya had gone well," the analyst said, "I'm sure Kenya would have been included. That's not possible now." E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

All About AfricaHIV and AIDSGeorge W. BushU.S. Government

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