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Bush Meets Publicly With South African President Thabo Mbeki

Aired June 26, 2001 - 11:26   ET

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


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
DARYN KAGAN, CNN ANCHOR: We take our viewers live to the White House right now, President Bush meeting with South African President Thabo Mbeki. Let's listen in to what the gentlemen have to say.

(JOINED IN PROGRESS)

GEORGE W. BUSH, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: ... a great discussion about our countries' relations. I look forward to furthering that discussion.

We have a lot of interests to discuss. We have the interest of trade and prosperity. My administration has made a commitment to work with leaders like President Mbeki on the continent of Africa to provide hope for people and we look forward to a great relationship with you, sir. You've provided imaginative real leadership that a lot of people in this nation admire and our relationship is only going to grow stronger as a result of your visit here.

So we welcome you to the United States and we welcome the dialogue we'll have here in the Oval Office and then over lunch with our respective delegations.

Mr. President?

THABO MBEKI, PRESIDENT OF SOUTH AFRICA: Thank you very much, Mr. President.

Let me say, thank you very much, indeed, Mr. President, for giving us the opportunity to see you. I've been looking forward to this because for us, Mr. President, our relations with the United States are very important. You know the challenges we face in South Africa, Mr. President, and the challenges we face on the African continent and, quite clearly, we need your support and involvement in order to solve those problems.

I'm happy we are able to meet today so we can look into, as you said, Mr. President, the matter of the bilateral relations as well as what we might do on the wider scale, and I think that, Mr. President, a moment has come for us, as Africans, really to turn the corner, to deal with all of these problems of violence and conflict and poverty, disease and so on.

And I've been very, very pleased, I must say this, Mr. President, in what we discussed in Austin, Texas about what might be done, that you have kept to that particular route, that though it wasn't agreements, but some understandings. It has been very inspiring to us and I'm sure that this visit will help us to get along as we definitely need to.

Thank you very much, Mr. President.

BUSH: Thank you, Mr. President. I'm so glad you're here, thanks.

QUESTION: Mr. President, neither of you has mentioned the AIDS scourge directly in your opening statements here. How high on the list of priorities for discussing the scourge is this on your agenda?

BUSH: It's an incredibly important part of our dialogue. The AIDS pandemic in Africa is terrible. And our nation intends to do something about it. As a matter of fact, our nation is doing something about it. We provide more money than any nation in the world to fund a strategy to defeat AIDS. And we will continue to work with nations that can afford to put money into the trust to do so.

I was so pleased to see not only to announce that our government put money into an international trust, but the Gates Foundation, a private foundation here in America, contributed $100 million. And yesterday, Tommy Thompson and Colin Powell went to the U.N. to discuss this important issue, and we will discuss it.

And we'll discuss it in-depth, just like we did in Austin, Texas, the president's concern, as am I.

I discussed it in Europe. I talked to the Europeans. I said, "We've made a downpayment into the international trust to battle AIDS." "They should contribute," I said. And I hope they do. I hope the European Union will follow suit.

Part of our discussion that night in Sweden was the United States taking the lead in the AIDS pandemic, not only in the continent of Africa, but around the world. And it's a big issue as far as we're concerned. We've got to do something about it.

Mr. President?

MBEKI: Yes, indeed, as the president says, we actually did discuss this matter even then, last time in May when we met in Texas. It clearly is an important matter. That's why I mention the matter of diseases on the African continent; AIDS indeed is one of those. We have to respond in a comprehensive way.

One of the matters we will discuss with the president is the African recovery program that we're working on. And one of the major priority areas in that African recovery program is precisely this area. So we certainly will discuss it. We have to do something because, in many instances, these are diseases which are not only caused by poverty, some of them, but also cause poverty.

So if you're talking about an African recovery, you cannot but discuss AIDS and really confront it. Malaria, tuberculosis, all sorts of communicable diseases are a critical matter of what has to happen. We have to address that.

QUESTION: President Mbeki, last week, the New York Times published an editorial accusing your government of, in its words, "Dooming half a generation of young people to an early, protracted and expensive death because of its failure to distribute antiretrovirals." How do you explain the amount of criticism that you are coming in for in the United States for what is a perception that you're not doing enough on HIV?

MBEKI: Well, all I would say to that really is that people must look at what we're doing in South Africa, not their perception of what they think we're doing, but what we're doing actually in the country, and I don't think, on the basis of facts, that an accusation like that can be sustained. It cannot.

Thank you.

KAGAN: We've been listening in live to a quick meeting between two presidents, President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa and President Bush, as they meet and visit, the two men focusing today mainly on economic issues between the two countries, trying to focus on economic stability and growth, and also talking about how to handle the AIDS epidemic, ways to attack that in South Africa.

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