Press Briefing by Gayle Smith and Susan Rice (8/26/00)
                              THE WHITE HOUSE

                       Office of the Press Secretary
                             (Abuja, Nigeria)

For Immediate Release                          August 26, 2000

                             PRESS BRIEFING BY
                                SUSAN RICE

                               Nicon Hilton
                                     Abuja, Nigeria

5:45 P.M. (L)

          MR. CROWLEY:  Good afternoon.  We've had a very successful first
day in the President's visit to Nigeria, and we have our dynamic duo of
African affairs here to give you a read out.  Gayle Smith, the Senior
Director for African Affairs for the National Security Council; and Dr.
Susan Rice, the Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs.

          MS. SMITH:  Good afternoon.  We're definitely a duo; I don't know
how dynamic we are -- we've had about as much sleep as you all have.  But,
as PJ says, it's been a truly remarkable and very successful first day.  I
think the thing that has been the most striking is how far, in fact, our
bilateral relationship has come in just over a year, both in terms of scope
and depth.

          President Clinton and President Obasanjo met several times today;
first, in a smaller meeting, where a number of issues were discussed,
including the issue of Nigeria's debt, whereas I believe you know we have
been in the forefront of efforts within the G-8 to push for a generous
rescheduling for Nigeria and put out a marker earlier this summer that we
would support debt reduction, given a good track record on Nigeria's part.

          Nigeria made clear that they very much intend to live up to the
obligations they have made in establishing an economic reform program and
have every interest in turning their economy around.

          They spent a fair amount of time discussing regional issues.
Certainly, Sierra Leone was near the top of the list, given events there.
Indeed, they discussed in some length the train and equip program which, as
you know, started this week.  I think significant there has been our
ability to shorten the time period during which those five battalions can
be fully trained.  The Nigerians certainly appreciate that and they made
very clear that they greatly appreciate the emphasis we have put on very
rightly in the President's view, their significant leadership role in the
region on peacekeeping.

          They discussed Liberia and the effects on the wider region of the
policies and behavior of President Charles Taylor, and also Cote d'Ivoire,
whereas the President remarked in the National Assembly Nigeria and South
Africa were the first in the world to condemn that coup.  Nigeria and the
United States share a concern which the two Presidents discussed about
upcoming plans for the election there and the implications for potentially
greater instability in Cote d'Ivoire if things are not managed well.

          They moved into an expanded meeting, which included our members
of Cabinet and senior representatives from other U.S. government agencies;
I think, again, indicative of the fact that we now have 24 U.S. government
agencies engaged with Nigeria.  There, they discussed a number of issues,
including Open Skies and what has been significantly expanded cooperation
on aviation, the resumption of direct flights last week.  I believe the
Open Skies agreement is being signed right now by Secretary Slater.

          They spent a fair amount of time also on agriculture.  From
President Obasanjo's point of view, agriculture is one of the sectors that
he wants to rehabilitate as quickly as possible, both to meet local food
needs, but also to diversify an economy which  is presently highly
dependent on oil.

          They agreed to some cooperation in the area of biotechnology, and
indeed, we will be doing a regional conference with the Nigerians later
this year, and also discussed Nigeria's participation in our new initiative
on school lunches and making at least one nutritional meal available per
day to school children with the aim of expanding primary enrollment.

          The fight against AIDS was another theme of discussion.
President Obasanjo, as you know, has agreed to host a summit after the
first of the year.  President Clinton thanked him for that leadership.
President Obasanjo made very clear that he intends to spend a great deal of
time on that issue, both domestically and across the continent.

          There were several other issues discussed including cooperation
on counternarcotics, where Nigeria has made progress.  There's still a fair
amount of work to do and we will work with them to do that.

          I think, all in all, I will turn to Susan here to talk about some
of the specifics of some of the new things we've agreed to.  We felt we had
every sign that the Nigerians felt that it was, again, a very productive
first day.  And I think perhaps the most exciting thing for us is that this
was not a discussion between two Presidents who were just beginning a
relationship, but two Presidents who clearly have an established
relationship.  They met shortly after President Obasanjo was elected, again
in October.  And as I say, in the just over one year since this government
was inaugurated, we have been able to establish significant cooperation
across a wide range of sectors.

          Susan, if you would like to go through some of the announcements.
And then we will take your questions.

          ASSISTANT SECRETARY RICE:  I feel shorter than usual.  Good
afternoon.  I don't have a great deal to add to what Gayle's already said.
I just want to give you a little bit more texture on the extent to which
this visit has served to broaden and deepen our relationship with Nigeria.

          Gayle mentioned we've got 24 U.S. government agencies actively
involved in various kinds of partnership relationships with Nigeria --
that's fairly extraordinary.  We have come a very long way in a short
period of time.  Two years ago, we had nothing to do with the government of
Nigeria.  We had $7 million of assistance coming into the country, most of
it -- all of it, in fact, excuse me -- going through NGOs for programs in
population and health.

          Over the last two fiscal years, we have increased our assistance
to Nigeria to almost $109 million.  That's quite a substantial increase.
And President Clinton has brought with him substantial additional
assistance in this trip, and you'll be hearing about it in detail, not only
today, but tomorrow, as well.

          He has brought an additional approximately $20 million worth of
development and technical assistance; and then, of course, the value of the
peacekeeping equipping and training effort, which is approximately $42
million.  Altogether, it's about $170 million bilateral cooperative
relationship, which is quite substantial by global standards, and by
standards in Africa more than double, close to triple -- actually, it is
probably triple our largest bilateral relationship after Nigeria.

          If I might just give you a little bit of a sense of some of the
areas of the cooperation.  The President mentioned health, HIV/AIDS,
malaria and polio.  We'll hear more about that tomorrow.  Education,
information technology, the establishment of community-based resource
centers in each of Nigeria's six major regions, efforts to help Nigeria
develop its agriculture sector, including through a combination of food aid
for monetized development projects, but also cooperation in developing
tropical agriculture, biotechnology and a full range of technical
assistance in that sphere -- democracy and governance, support for trade
and investment, and of course, I think quite significantly, President
Clinton's announcement at the National Assembly today that he will ask the
Peace Corps to return to Nigeria.

          It is, therefore, been from our perspective, a fantastic day in
terms of demonstrating the scope of our ability to work with Nigeria, a
country that we consider increasingly an essential partner for the United
States as we pursue our shared interests, not only in Africa, but around
the world.

          On the private sector side -- you'll hear more about this
tomorrow -- but President Clinton and President Obasanjo, as Gayle said,
talked about the necessity of attracting increased investment to Nigeria
and expanding our bilateral trade.  And to that end, the Export-Import Bank
will be guaranteeing private sector loans here in Nigeria that will be
consummated during this trip, worth up to $1.2 billion.  The Trade and
Development Agency will be funding a number of feasibility studies, the
potential value of which is in the hundreds of millions of dollars should
those projects come through.  So this is a multifaceted relationship
involving our private sector, our governments, our non-governmental
sectors.  And we are very enthusiastic about the potential for its
long-term development.

          We're happy to take your questions.  Thank you.

          Q    Do you have more details on what they discussed, on what
President Obasanjo and President Clinton discussed about Sierra Leone and
Liberia, on exactly what the concerns were that they shared in their

          ASSISTANT SECRETARY RICE:  Well, as you know, the issue of Sierra
Leone and how we can work with the Nigerian government and the West African
subregion to bring lasting peace and stability has been a constant theme in
our discussions over the last several months.

          Today, the focus was on two things.  One, how to go about
accelerating our shared efforts to beef up the U.N. force to our train and
equip program, how to accelerate that and how to put it in place to provide
a forceful military component to the larger strategy of assisting the
government of Sierra Leone to regain control over all of its territory and
all of its resources.

          Secondly, they talked about some of the actors that stand in the
way of achieving that goal, players inside Sierra Leone and in the
subregion, and affirmed their interest in working together with other
constructive leaders in the region to bolster the peace in Sierra Leone and
limit the influence of those who may wish to create more difficulties.

          Q    (Inaudible) --

          ASSISTANT SECRETARY RICE:  Well, on Liberia, we have a shared
concern about the role that Liberia has played in Sierra Leone in arms
trafficking and diamond smuggling.  And that's an issue about which we have
been very vocal in recent weeks and months and it remains a very serious
shared concern.

          Q    The U.S. Congress recently passed the trade and Equal
Opportunity Act.  On like Asia, the African countries have not been able to
take advantage of this trade act.  Could you please have offer some reasons
why you think that most African countries have not been able to take a good
opportunity of this act?

          MS. SMITH:   That's a fairly simple answer with what I hope will
be a good reply for you.  The bill was just passed and we then go through a
statutory process of implementing it.  So it will not go into effect until
the first part of October, at which point the African countries will be
able to take advantage of the benefits.

          Q    On the debt relief, in Okinawa the G-8 members said that
they were hoping to basically accelerate poor countries' access to debt
relief by encouraging them to do more to restructure their economies, but
it didn't actually speak about additional money being provided by the G-8
countries, it was more of we're going to work with them to get the process
moving more quickly.  Is there something more than that that the President
was committing to today?

          MS. SMITH:  Let me say a couple of things on that.  I think that
what was evident at the G-8 and what the G-8 countries are very focused on
now is being able to implement the enhanced HPIC initiative, which is the
funding that we've requested so that we can fulfill our obligations within
the multilateral organizations.

          Now, if you look at where the international community started on
debt, this is truly a significant initiative, and it's our very strong view
that we've got to make every effort to get that underway, because it will
both deepen and broaden relief and render it more swift.

          In the context of Nigeria, the discussion was focused on, again,
this issue of now that Nigeria is in a position to reorganize an economy
which has been fundamentally distorted by misrule for such a long time, and
also to start diversifying it, that we will, assuming a good performance
and a good track record established over the next year, seriously look at
reduction for Nigeria.

          Q    Reduction beyond which they would have already qualified for
under the enhanced HPIC --

          MS. SMITH:  No.  Nigeria is not a HPIC country.  The HPIC
initiative applies to the poorest countries and the most heavily indebted.
And, obviously, while Nigeria has an enormous debt and if you look at
social and economic indicators, one could certainly make the case that
poverty is an acute problem.  The HPIC initiative deals with a set of
countries that have, quite frankly, statistics that are even worse when you
look at social indicators and the level of indebtedness.

          Q    Is Nigeria on the same footing as some of those other HPIC
countries -- they start to move ahead and they start to get relief as they
move ahead with reform?

          MS. SMITH:  It looks at Nigeria being engaged in a process which
could and should lead to reduction, yes.

          Q    What's your latest understanding of what the President's
going to be witness to in Tanzania?  Will there be any kind of agreement
signed, or is it going to go past the deadline that Mandela has set?

          MS. SMITH:  President Clinton is going to Arusha in support of
President Mandela, as you all know.  President Mandela is in Arusha now.
For the last several days he has been meeting with the Burundian parties,
and he is doing so in Arusha today and tomorrow.  And obviously, he will
take it as far as he believes that he can.

          We are very much looking at the stop in Arusha as a way to
support the process and President Mandela's leadership of it, but also to,
with him, consolidate the progress that has been achieved thus far.  If you
look at the overall agreement, which I think it's probably better to
describe as a framework, there      has been considerable agreement made
over the last year, and prior to that by President Nyerere.  There are
outstanding issues, but there are people sitting in the same room talking
today which a year ago they wouldn't have even thought of sitting in the
same room and talking.

          So we hope that that agreement can be consolidated.  If it can be
move further, fine; but President Clinton's purpose in going vis a vis the
Burundians is very much to send a message that they have made progress, we
support that progress, that the violence needs to end, and that we
recognize that this is a very, very long-term proposition.

          Q    It is not yet known whether the agreement will be done by

          MS. SMITH:  The level to which they will have full agreement will
be the outcome of President Mandela's meetings.  But I would underscore
something here, which is that the progress that has been made thus far I
think is, in our view, extremely positive.  So if they're able to get
further, great; if they maintain it where they are, again, if you look at
where this has come from, the progress has been marked.  But the other side
is also true.  This will not be fully resolved by next week, or next month,
or even next year.  It's a very complex conflict and it's going to take a
great deal of time to unravel it.

          Q    Returning to Nigeria, can you expand further on the U.S.'s
plans for support money and the like regarding HIV/AIDS programs?

          MS. SMITH:  Yes, and the President will go into that in more
detail tomorrow.  There are a number of areas where we are involved with
Nigeria and the HIV/AIDS side, and I'll just go through a few of them.  Out
of our LIFE initiative, Leadership In Fighting an Epidemic, we provide --
are providing $9.25 million for this fiscal year.  That's for prevention
and education.

          We also have new initiatives underway on the military side, for
example, to look at AIDS prevention there, and also dealing with some of
the other diseases that are opportunistic infections or diseases that
compact with AIDS to, in fact, increase the death rate, both malaria and
poverty.  I think that we will see a great deal more engagement both by the
government, but also by NGOs, foundations, and others on this issue, given
the willingness of the Nigerians to really do what they need to do to
educate and prevent.

          But if you will, I'll let the President speak to that tomorrow
when we have an event in the afternoon, specifically on this subject.

          Q    Can you give us more of an idea as to what to expect to come
out of tomorrow?  I mean, today was more politics, tomorrow is more social
issues, or how would you describe it?

          MS. SMITH:  I think if you look at the events tomorrow, in the
morning the President will have a very valuable opportunity to talk to
Nigerians about their own views of the transition and what their
aspirations are.  The event midday on HIV/AIDS and infectious diseases, we
and the Nigerians believe is extremely important.  President Obasanjo has
been quite a leader on all three.  He just convened a summit earlier this
year on Malaria.  Malaria is one of the greatest killers on the continent.
It is rare, unfortunately, that heads of state, themselves, take on this
issue and try to get more done.

          He will also assume a leadership role on polio.  There will be a
major regional initiative to vaccinate against polio later this year, which
will be one of the largest public health    -- coordinated public health
exercises in Africa -- similarly on HIV/AIDS.

          But I think also, and importantly, tomorrow there will be an
opportunity for the President to meet and speak to Nigerian NGOs and others
who are activists in their own right and who are doing the work on the
ground to educate others about it.

          Tomorrow night, there will be an opportunity to focus on trade
and investment.  And we've heard and seen ample evidence of the importance
of the passage of the Africa trade bill, but also, and I think
significantly, we're seeing a renewed interest on the part of our private
sector, but also our trade and development agencies as Susan mentioned,
like Ex-Im and TDA.

          And what we sincerely hope -- and I think we're already seeing
the signs, is that Nigeria will be the recipient of greatly increased
private investment over the months and years to come.

          Q    -- how much a year for that?

          ASSISTANT SECRETARY RICE:  Yes, over 60, as far as we know.

          Q    A quick question, and then a longer question.  The quick
question:  Is the AIDS conference that Obasanjo committed to, is it
announced today -- was that on the plans before?

          ASSISTANT SECRETARY RICE:  That is something that he's spoken to
a couple of times over the last couple of months, so that wasn't brand new

          Q    And the concern that I've heard expressed among some of the
members of the Assembly is that the President is almost finished with his
term, he comes with all this enthusiasm for Africa, but what good is it
going to do them when he's out of office and who knows what the next
President wants.  Is there some way that you can address that concern, that
all this hoopla might be for nothing?

          MS. SMITH:   Well, I think both of us would like to take a stab
at that.  I think what President Clinton has done very effectively has been
to make the case for U.S. engagement with Africa, on the clear grounds that
it's in our mutual interests.

          And in the two years since he made his first trip to Africa, what
many of us have been able to do is, if you will, build the institutional
architecture to do that.  For example, our cooperation with Nigeria, as
Susan said, scans 24 agencies.  This is ongoing cooperation.  And I think
we not only believe, but suspect that it will continue because I think the
evidence is in that that cooperation is important.

          I also think that President Clinton intends to get as much done
as he can in the remaining months in office.  And there is ample evidence
to us that this trip is of great meaning to both us and the Nigerians, in
order to both highlight the importance of Nigeria to us, but also to be
able to profile what the benefits are to us and Nigeria of this transition
and our mutual cooperation around it.

          ASSISTANT SECRETARY RICE:  I'd just add to that, that it's not as
if President Clinton's focus on Africa began this week.  As you well know,
it goes back to 1994, when he had the first-ever White House Conference on
Africa and he has every year since then put in place a series of
initiatives and contacts and engagement which is expanding our relationship
with all of Africa.

          Nigeria has only been in a position to be the kind of partner we
would hope and like it to be for a little over a year.  I think in that
year we've made a tremendous amount of progress.  And, as Gayle said, we've
laid an institutional foundation across a broad spectrum of our government
and the Nigerian government that we're quite confident will endure,
irrespective of the future in the United States.  And that's because this
is a relationship that's manifestly about our mutual interests and what we
can accomplish together.

          So I think this is one further step in a series that will
inevitably continue.  I think Nigeria has a lot to gain from this and so
does the United States.

          Q    A question related to the peacekeeping training that is
supposedly going to take place.  There's a report today that some British
soldiers were taken hostage in Sierra Leone.  Do you think -- have you
heard anything about that?  Does that underscore the need for African
countries to handle this?  Does it underscore the danger that Western
countries face in trying to handle these matters themselves?

          ASSISTANT SECRETARY RICE:  The details we have are rather limited
on the specific situation of the British soldiers.  But it neither sends
any particular message about Western involvement in Africa, nor does it
call into question any of the significant steps that we've all decided to
take together to strengthen the U.N. presence in Sierra Leone.  On the
contrary; it shows that that there are elements very active in Sierra Leone
that are determined to perpetuate instability, and the British have led the
way, along with the United Nations, with the support of many others,
including the United States and the international community and, of course,
Nigeria, to strengthen the international presence in Sierra Leone to
diminish the capacity of those who wish to wreak violence and destabilize
the situation.  So that's an effort that we have to continue now more than

          THE PRESS:  Thank you.

                                 END 6:10 P.M. (L)

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