For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 26, 2001
Remarks by the President
And President Mbeki of South Africa
in Photo Opportunity
the Oval Office
11:27 A.M. EDT
PRESIDENT BUSH: It is my honor to
welcome the President Mbeki to the Oval Office. It's good to
see you again, sir. The last time we visited was in the
Governor's Mansion in Texas. We had a great discussion about
our country's relations. I look forward to furthering that
discussion. We have a lot of interests that
-- 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. We welcome the dialogue we'll have here in the Oval
Office, and then over lunch with the respective delegations.
PRESIDENT MBEKI: 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, as you said, Mr.
President, at the matter of the bilateral relations, as well as what we
might do on the wider scale. And I think that, Mr.
President, the 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 -- that what we
discussed in Austin, Texas, about what might be done, that you have
kept to that particular route, those present agreements, with some
understandings, 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.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank
you. I'm so glad you're here. Thanks.
Q Mr. President,
neither of you have 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?
PRESIDENT BUSH: Well, 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 is concerned, as am I.
I discussed it in Europe. I talked
to the Europeans. I said, we've made a down payment 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
this is a big issue, as far as we're concerned. We've got to
do something about it. Mr. President.
PRESIDENT MBEKI: Yes,
indeed. As the President says, we actually did discuss this
matter, even then, last year in May, when we met in
Texas. It clearly is an important matter. That's
why I mentioned 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'll discuss with the President is
this 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 this. And 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, tuberculoses, all sorts of communicable diseases
are a particular matter of what has to happen -- we have to address
them. Q Mr. President,
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 anti-retrovirals. How do you explain
the amount of criticism that you're coming in for in the United States
for what is a perception that you're not doing enough on HIV?
PRESIDENT MBEKI: Well, I'll we've
said -- 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 basics of facts an
accusation like that can be sustained.
Q Thank you.
11:34 A.M. EDT