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President Clinton Travels to Nigeria to Press Further Democratic Reforms, Offer Aid

Aired August 25, 2000 - 1:20 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: President Clinton is preparing to head to Africa this weekend. Democratic progress in the often beleaguered continent could mean more U.S. funds will be flowing into African hands.

CNN's John King now looks at what the president hopes to accomplish during his trip.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JOHN KING, CNN SENIOR WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): The U.S. president will hold up Nigeria as an example of hope and progress on a continent more often associated with disease and despair. President Olusegun Obasanjo is given high marks in Washington for his commitment to democracy and efforts to fight the spread of AIDS and other infectious diseases in Africa's most populous nation.

SAMUEL BERGER, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER: President Obasanjo is a leader in Africa in this life-or-death battle.

KING: But violent crime and poverty still plague Nigeria despite its oil riches, and impatience with the new government is growing.

SALIH BOOKER, AFRICA POLICY INFORMATION CENTER: Nigerians themselves want to see the country hold together, but they want to see an improvement in their living conditions.

KING: Mr. Clinton's visit is designed to show that more U.S. support and aid will be in the offing if democratic and economic reforms continue.

BERGER: This is a make-or-break transition, not just for Nigeria, but for Africa. If Nigeria succeeds, this can help lift the whole region to prosperity and peace. If it fails, it can swamp the whole region in turmoil and misery.

KING: The president snubbed Nigeria on his first trip to Africa two years ago to protest its military dictatorship. But since Mr. Obasanjo's election last May, U.S. aid has increased from $7 million to more than $100 million, and the United States this week begins training five Nigerian battalions preparing for peacekeeping duties in Sierra Leone. Nigeria is looking for debt relief and help rebuilding its crumbling education and public health systems. Mr. Clinton will press Nigeria to increase oil production.

BOOKER: There's a concern that if that price reaches over $30 a barrel, it could lead to a recession in the industrialized economies in particular. So that certainly is a major part of the bilateral agenda with Nigeria.

KING: Mr. Clinton's three-day trip also includes a brief stop in Tanzania to lend his support to Burundi peace talks being mediated by former South African President Nelson Mandela. But U.S. officials say the president is going mostly out of respect for Mr. Mandela and that the prospects for the talks look increasingly dim.

John King, CNN, the White House.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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