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Gore Heads To South Africa


CAPE TOWN, South Africa (AllPolitics, Feb. 14) -- Vice President Al Gore is heading up a U.S. delegation to South Africa for three days of policy talks and to address a recent strain in relations between the two nations over South Africa's plan to sell a weapons system to Syria.

The American delegation has traveled to South Africa, with a brief stop in Namibia, for a biannual meeting of the U.S.-South Africa Binational Commission.

Joining Gore are Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt, newly sworn-in Commerce Secretary William Daley, and Agriculture Secretary Dan Glickman. South African Deputy President Thabo Mbeki heads his country's delegation.

On the agenda for the conference are trade, the environment, energy, agriculture, education and science. Gore and Mbeki are expected to privately discuss foreign affairs, including recent tension between the two nations over arms sales to Syria.

Last month the U.S. warned South Africa that if it followed through with plans to sell Syria a $650 million laser-guided tank firing control system, the U.S. would withdraw $120 million in aid. The United States classifies Syria as a "state sponsor of terrorism."

South African President Nelson Mandela responded angrily to the American threat, calling it an insult to his nation's pride and independence.

Gore is scheduled to visit with Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu at their respective residences. He will also tour Dobben Island where Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years, meet with labor leaders in the city of Durban and visit nature preserves.

An all-but-declared candidate for the 2000 presidential race, the vice president has taken a leading role in U.S. foreign policy in the early days of the second Clinton Administration. Last week he met with Russian Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin and is slated to lead a U.S. envoy to China next month.

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