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 Home > News & Policies > June 2001
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For Immediate Release
Office of the Press Secretary
June 26, 2001

Background Briefing
By Senior Administration Officials
on the President's Meeting With
President Mbeki of South Africa
the James S. Brady Briefing Room

1:23 P.M. EDT

     SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Good afternoon, everyone.  I'm here to give you a little bit of a readout on President Mbeki and President Bush's meeting this morning, first in the Oval and then the hour-long lunch meeting.      The Presidents emphasized the importance of our partnership with South Africa and they affirmed the need for a strong relationship and a continuation of our bilateral relationship through 10 working groups.  They also discussed the Millennium Africa Recovery Plan that, as many of you know, President Mbeki is developing with other heads of state in Africa.      President Bush told President Mbeki that he supports the goals of the Millennium Africa Recovery Plan, as well as the initiative that African leaders are taking to address poverty alleviation and assured President Mbeki of the U.S. support for those general principles and goals.      The two Presidents also addressed HIV-AIDS, and President Bush, there, talked about U.S. leadership on this issue, called for global leadership, and reiterated the fact that the United States is the largest contributor, will continue to do more, and sent Secretary Powell to the UNGA's special session on HIV-AIDS to communicate that to the world of U.S. leadership and commitment to this issue.      And finally, they also spoke about the World Conference Against Racism, and both Presidents agreed that we need a forward-looking approach to address the problems -- continued problems of racism, as well as the problems of slave-like practices in the modern world.      They discussed regional issues -- Zimbabwe, Angola briefly, and the Democratic Republic of the Congo -- and again affirmed a commitment to work together on conflict resolution.  And so, in terms of our Africa policy, they discussed the primary priorities of HIV/AIDS, of expanded trade and of conflict resolution, conflict mitigation.      Q    Yes, you say slave-like practices.  Are they unaware of Mugabe and Mauritania and Sudan?  That's slavery itself, isn't it?      SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yes, thank you.  In fact, I was trying to be broader than that.  But both Presidents did, at lunch time, discuss the horrific situation taking place in Sudan.  And so that issue did come up directly about the human rights abuses that the government of Sudan is carrying out on its own population.      Q    Did they discuss the dictatorship of Mugabe?      SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  They did discuss the need for democratization, for the rule of law -- respect for the rule of law in Zimbabwe.  President Mbeki briefed President Bush on the work that the seven, I think it is, foreign ministers from the Commonwealth have taken on an initiative.  And so President Mbeki gave President Bush a briefing on that.      Q    Could you say something about these 10 working groups?  And is this commission which had been set up during the Clinton administration, with the Vice Presidents of both countries, still in operation, or is that defunct, and what has replaced that?      SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  As you know, when President Bush came into office, he abolished all of the binational commissions that were previously run through the Vice President's office.  What the two Presidents said about that -- our bilateral relationship is that we have a very strong partnership, a more matured relationship with South Africa since the BNC had been created over those -- I guess it's the last four or six years, eight years, that that relationship has really been strengthened.      President Bush said to President Mbeki, obviously, you can always pick up the phone to talk to me directly.  Our foreign ministers -- Foreign Minister Zuma and Secretary Powell, are in touch -- but also that we do want to continue the working groups.  And we've talked about establishing a U.S.-South Africa coordinating forum to build on that bilateral relationship.      Q    But is that something that goes over and above your relationship with other African states?  Or do you have similar coordinating groups with other states in the sub-Sahara?      SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Currently, we have two special relationships.  We talk about a strategic approach toward Africa, and that's with South Africa and with Nigeria.  And when President Obasanjo was here, we also discussed establishing working groups with the Nigerians.      Q    How does a bilateral forum differ from a binational commission?      SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  The way that this forum is going to be set up, it's going to have a secretariat on each side.  That is, the U.S. secretariat will be run by State Department and NSC, and they will coordinate all the 10 different working groups.  Likewise, on the South African side, there will be a secretariat made up of the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Office of the President, and they will coordinate their side of the 10 working committees.      Q    When the country had a binational commission, the Gore-Mbeki Commission -- how different was this structure?      SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Actually, there are some very strong similarities.  The 10 working groups, which is really the heart and the guts of the commission, are still there.  It's the same 10 -- actually, we're going to change a couple of them because, for instance, health care needs to be one of its own.  But those 10 working groups were really -- that was the working level where most of the work was done.  And those 10 are still there.  And these two secretariats will coordinate those 10.      And there will be reports regularly up to the ministerial level.  And again, as my colleague said, there will be continual reports going up to the heads of state.      Q    Health care is new, that's a new group?      SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  No, it actually was part of another group.  And we're probably going to -- we've got to discuss this with the South Africans, but we're probably going to break that out and let it be its own group.      Q    Is that, in part, based on AIDS or --      SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  On all infectious diseases, HIV-AIDS included, tuberculosis, malaria.  The health working group has been one of the more successful working groups in the Commission.  So we're pleased to see kind of getting it out on its own.      Q    The joint resolution talks about affirming desire for democratic, prosperous Zimbabwe, and things like that, and the Congo.  Was anything concrete done, or just wanting to have things work well?  Did they make any promises or goals or anything?      SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Well, actually, it Washington interesting -- President Mbeki discussed how this Group of 7 Commonwealth foreign ministers -- which it seems like the Commonwealth has just gotten agreement by all 7 -- will work specifically on the Zimbabwe issues.  And it will be a number of issues they've got on the agenda -- election reform, economic, land redistribution questions.  So three or four really key Zimbabwe problems that are facing that country right now, those will all be on this Commonwealth 7 agenda.      Q    To follow up, was President Mbeki at all critical of Robert Mugabe?      SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  It didn't -- the conversation didn't unfold in that fashion.  It was much more -- and as President Bush said, both of -- in answering this question, but also as President Bush said in terms of the binational structure, he was primarily interested in what can be achieved, what structure can be achieved for results.      And so, in the case of Zimbabwe, the Presidents didn't spend much time on sort of -- there was a recognition that the problem in Zimbabwe is problematic.  So they didn't spend much time talking and criticizing.  They spent much more time on how do we solve this problem, how do we deal with the issue of promotion of rule of law, democracy, getting beyond this land issue in Zimbabwe.      Q    -- criticized him?      SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Both Presidents were worried.      SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  I would put it this way, that the criticism was implicit in the need to talk about the rule of law in democracy.      Q    Was there any encouragement for President Mbeki to talk a stronger public stance against the crisis in Zimbabwe?  Because President Mbeki has been notably silent for a long time on this issue, which some in the U.S. have seen as kind of counterproductive, not helpful.      SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  It really seemed as if this Commonwealth 7 was going to be his vehicle.  South Africa is one of the seven.  Britain is one of the seven.  I think it's Kenya, Jamaica, Australia, Zimbabwe.  I'm missing one or two.  But President Mbeki clearly saw this as an opportunity -- this is his vehicle, this is how he was going to remain engaged in it.      Q    Can you elaborate a bit on what they discussed about the WCAR?      SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yes.  They talked -- President Mbeki raised the need for the regional leaders to be -- to pressure all sides to implement the Lusaka Accord.  He spoke about former President Masire's engagement as the facilitator of the national dialogue.  He also discussed the fact that he and President Obasanjo had met with many of the parties there and were looking for a way in which the region could help in the implementation, working with the MONUC mission, the U.N. mission there.                               END            1:34 P.M. EDT

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